MANKATO, Minn. — Adrian Peterson has received his first cheers from Vikings fans of the 2015 season.
The running back and teammates were welcomed back to the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato on Saturday by a peppy crowd of Vikings fans as players checked into their dorm for Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
There were warm welcomes for all players, from veterans to undrafted rookies, strolling from the parking lot with suitcases, training recovery devices and an occasional flat screen and Xbox into what will be their home for three weeks, but the greeting for Peterson was particularly robust.
Helmets, signs, cereal boxes, posters, photos, Vikings jerseys and memorabilia from his college days were extended toward the running back as requests for an autograph cascaded down the line from fans that cheered his past accomplishments and are excited about his future with the Vikings.
"It felt good. It's a good feeling just to know the support that I've been receiving through the entire process. It was a good feeling," Peterson said during a media session.
Peterson missed all but one game in 2014, but has worked to return stronger physically and mentally.
"I'm focusing on looking forward," Peterson said. "But it's comforting; it's definitely a good feeling to know that the people do have your back. But, it will take a while for this to get erased out of my memory."
The arrival fell days after Peterson and the Vikings mutually agreed on new terms for the remaining three years of his contract.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the deal benefits the team and Peterson.
"We felt as we went through this, and I have to give kudos to (Vikings EVP of Football Operations) Rob Brzezinski and (Peterson's agent) Ben Dogra for working through this through the summer," Spielman said. "We thought it was a win-win for both of us. I know we've been through a lot, he's been through a lot but to have him back, to have him focused on football and us focused on football, we're looking forward to seeing him run around out there.
"As you go through this and from a business standpoint, I never really talk about the behind the scenes business part, but to get this done, gives him some satisfaction and the ability to plan as we go forward into the future," Spielman continued. "We feel these are steps toward having Adrian retire a Minnesota Viking."
Peterson said he's "definitely happy" to have the deal worked out.
"If that wasn't the case, I would have just played this year out and not try to redo the contract," Peterson said. "I'm happy to be a Viking. I can say that I've been at Winter Park for a long time now, so they know me and I know them. It's a lot of new faces but it's a lot of guys that I've been around for five-plus years. Just the entire organization, not just the head coaches, but also the front office, people in the marketing building. You build that rapport with those guys and those women, and they're family. It feels good to be back around family."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer agreed that it is good to have Peterson back and the business aspect of the game taken care of before camp, where Zimmer said the 2012 NFL MVP will get "a majority of the reps."
"Adrian has always been great with me, and that's all I care about," Zimmer said. "I'm trying to do my very best for him and I'm sure he feels the same way about me."
Peterson returned to Winter Park for organized team activity practices, where Zimmer said Peterson "looked fantastic."
"He wants to get back, too. I'll probably have to hold him back more so than push him," Zimmer said. "But we all have jobs to do, and that's why we're down here right now."
Veterans like Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, and fifth-round draft picks Stefon Diggs and MyCole Pruitt worked the autograph line for a considerable amount of time on their way into the dorm. Pruitt signed so long he worked up a sweat in the mid-day warmth of the sun. Fans also made sure to tell first-round pick Trae Waynes "Happy Birthday."
Waynes turned 23 the same day that Mike Kafka turned 28 and Carter Bykowski turned 25. Matt Asiata hit 28 Friday, and Brandon Fusco turns 27 Sunday.
By Saturday afternoon, players were on their way to a conditioning test at Blakeslee Stadium. The Vikings hit the field publicly for a walk-through at 10:30 a.m. and practice at 2:45 p.m. Sunday (full schedule).
Peterson said he thinks training camp can play a "big role" in turning the page on the new year.
"Last year is over and done with. We were talking about the Minnesota Vikings as a team and the things we were trying to accomplish last year," Peterson said. "This year starts a new chapter for that. Kicking off and transitioning from OTAs and the minicamps to training camp is huge. A lot of guys are more comfortable under the system. We know what the coaches expect from us as a team. This is the starting point of us really becoming more crisp (and) doing what we need to do to accomplish our goals."