EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson's first hug quickly followed his first footsteps of 2015 into the Vikings Winter Park headquarters.
Peterson, who has established a hallmark career by running through, over and around defenders to the franchise rushing record, began his Tuesday morning with the path he normally takes through doors to the Vikings equipment room.
Arms — not of a tackler, but of longtime equipment manager Dennis Ryan — found their destination and wrapped around the 2012 NFL MVP to welcome him into the building for the first time since September.
"He greeted me with a hug, a big smile on his face, it just felt good, it felt good to just kind of be back in the building, to be around the fellas, to be around the people that's been supporting me," Peterson said during his opening statement of a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "Each and every guy in that locker room has been supportive, the people in the building, the front office, I've known these people for over eight years, it's been a lot of love that I've felt through this process and I was able to feel that same love today being around the guys and just being back in the building. I'm just focusing on moving forward and trying to accomplish the ultimate goal, and that's to bring a championship to Minnesota."
Earlier, the Vikings had participated in their fourth of 10 scheduled organized team activity practices (click here for teammates' reaction to his return).
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media about the team's first play with Peterson back in the backfield:
"Everybody knew Adrian was getting the ball, but (Offensive Coordinator) Norv (Turner) called a play-action pass, so the defense got fooled pretty good on that one," Zimmer explained. "Those are the kind of things that he helps us with. His teammates have welcomed him, the coaches have welcomed him and we know what kind of person and what kind of player he is."
MOVING FORWARD FROM MISTAKE
Peterson said he apologized to his son and has learned about other methods of discipline like "timeout" or taking away a toy.
"The first person that I apologized to was my son and that was initially, and that was right after the situation took place when I realized what had happened," Peterson said. "I've apologized about the mistake that I've made; it wasn't my intentions. I've been trying to move forward since."
He later added:
"I made a mistake and I'm not taking it lightly at all," Peterson said. "It's something that I regret, and my son knows that and the people that truly know me and know my character and know what type of person that I am when I'm with my kids or around my kids, they know that as well. That's really, to me, the only thing that matters."
Zimmer expressed empathy for making a mistake and said he knows "what's in (Peterson's) heart and what kind of person he is."
"He had to go through some hard times for himself, but you know, I've made a million mistakes in my life," Zimmer said. "Hopefully, I will continue to learn, but I think we all have those things that come up that we make mistakes, we apologize for them, we go on."
In the times that Zimmer and Peterson have spoken during the process, including a visit by the coach and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman to Peterson's home in Texas, they said they've been able to communicate openly with each other.
"I love this kid, I really do. I've said this all along," Zimmer said. "I wouldn't fly down to Houston to see him if he wasn't important to me and to my program and to our coaches and to the rest of the football team. I mean the players were all hugging him today, it was pretty cool. We didn't practice very good, maybe because we were thinking about other things."
Peterson said he shares in Zimmer's passion for football and that influence means "a lot, maybe even more so than he knows."
"He's just one of those guys, one of those coaches that really don't want to disappoint because you understand, you're able to see that he has the same passion for the game as you," Peterson said. "He's going to do the right thing whether that's a guy that's starting that's started two years and someone comes in and outplays this guy, going to put them in there or just shoot it to you straight whether you like it or not. Me, as a competitor, I love that type of mentality, and he's always been straightforward with me during this process. He's been supportive as well. Considering the other coaches as well and Coach Zimmer, that played a role."
There was much speculation during Peterson's time on the Commissioner's Exempt List and while he served a suspension regarding his future with the Vikings. Peterson was asked if he ever wanted to play elsewhere and said:
"I'm going to be absolutely 100 percent with you. With everything going on in my life during that time, I really didn't know what I wanted. I didn't know if I wanted to play somewhere else, if I wanted to retire, if I wanted to go off and get into track, just change it up differently, just do something different. That's where receiving advice from my parents and my advisors really played a big role."
Peterson then explained that he believes the Vikings "can accomplish great things" based on his confidence in the coaching staff, what he saw from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as a rookie from afar and the talent of his teammates.
"I'm happy where I'm at here with the Minnesota Vikings," Peterson said. "I love the coaching staff. I've said it before, I feel like as a group this is the best coaching staff that we've seen since I've been here. I like what they present. We have a young team, a hungry team, an excellent young quarterback who has a year under his belt now and we have a lot of talent. We can accomplish great things."
Zimmer pledged support from the Vikings will continue.
"I will help him in any possible way that I can, I know these players in this locker room will help him in any possible way that they can, too," Zimmer said. "He's a Minnesota Viking, he's one of our guys. He's going to be wearing the purple with us and fighting with us and sweating with us."