Things are finally looking up for the Minnesota Vikings, even if their head coach can’t literally look up because of restrictions he faces as he scraps his way back from four surgeries to repair a detached retina in his right eye.
First, the Vikings rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the lowly Jaguars 25-16 in Jacksonville on Sunday. They’re 7-6, including 2-1 in their last three games, good for the No. 8 spot in the NFC and within one game of a playoff slot heading into Sunday’s home game against the 6-7 and struggling Colts.
Then, a day later, a guy named Adrian Peterson announced that he’s returning to practice this week with the hope of being able to play the following week on Christmas Eve at Lambeau Field. The 31-year-old former league MVP has been on injured reserve since having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee suffered during the win over the Packers in Week 2.
A week after telling reporters he wouldn’t return if the Vikings were out of the playoff picture “for obvious reasons,” Peterson told Dash Radio on Monday that, “I’ll be back in the building and plan on practicing this week to really get my legs under me and get a good feel on where I’m at. So this week is going to be big for me.”
Peterson was averaging only 1.9 yards per carry before being injured. But, if healthy, he would change the way defenses play the Vikings, allowing quarterback Sam Bradford more opportunities to throw the ball deep, as he did with success at Jacksonville.
Peterson also would help solve the Vikings’ woeful short-yardage and goal-line running. Sunday, the Vikings fumbled the ball away on third-and-goal at the 1, and were stopped on third and fourth down from the 1.
Meanwhile, Zimmer is gaining a lot of toughness cred in the locker room for refusing to miss back-to-back games because of his eye surgeries. He had surgeries the day before and after missing the loss to Dallas on Dec. 1. But he never had a doubt that he’d be on the sideline in Jacksonville 10 days later — eye patch, sunglasses, reading glasses and all.
“Since the day I walked in the building here, I’ve talked about toughness,” Zimmer said. “There’s a sign up there somewhere that says, ‘Take ownership in something bigger than yourself.’ I want to do good for the fans — the fans we had down there in Jacksonville, they were unbelievable — and for the organization and the players. If you’re going to preach it, you need to walk the walk, too.”
The Vikings once owned the league’s last unbeaten record at 5-0. Now, they’re taking the approach that they need to win out and hope other teams lose ahead of them. The NFC North is virtually out of reach because the Vikings would need to win out and have the Lions (9-4) lose their last three.
But, for now, the scrappy coach and his resilient team keeps on fighting. And they could be getting a significant reinforcement come Christmas Eve.
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