Peterson said Thursday that he plans to play against the New Orleans Saints this weekend despite being only 85 percent healed from a sprained left ankle that has caused him to miss three consecutive games.
Peterson wants to be there for his teammates, who have fallen to 2-11 by finding a new way to lose seemingly every week; for his coaches, who have received plenty of criticism during this massively disappointing season; and for all the fans, who are counting on him to help them in their fantasy football leagues.
"It's very important, especially for my fantasy team owners," Peterson jokingly said. "They've been giving me a hard time on Twitter. But just being out ... seeing my guys go out and fall short week after week and just wishing I was out there to help those guys compete."
Peterson suffered the high ankle sprain during a Nov. 20 game against the Oakland Raiders. After making him the highest-paid running back in NFL history in the offseason, the Vikings didn't want to risk their investment by rushing Peterson back during a season in which the playoffs aren't an option.
But Peterson never thought about taking the rest of the season off to make sure he's fully recovered.
"I love this game, so no matter if we were 2-11 or whatever, if I'm healthy I'm going to go out and play," Peterson said. "That's been my mindset from the beginning. Three weeks off, I'm going to be a part of it."
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder's hip pointer also has improved, so coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings are expecting to have everyone available for the game against the Saints (10-3). Peterson will be evaluated again Friday, but all signs are pointing to his return.
"The way he's moving around, some of the things that really concerned him a week ago at this time don't seem to concern him much, nor does it concern us," Frazier said. "So if he has another good day (Friday), we should be in the clear."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press