Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday that the Vikings are "not going to look for a running back in free agency."
Zimmer was speaking with beat reporters who traveled from the Twin Cities to Indianapolis for the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.
Zimmer's words reinforced General Manager Rick Spielman's comments Wednesday that he expects Adrian Peterson will return in a Vikings uniform in 2015.
Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP, is currently serving a suspension that is scheduled to last until April 15, which would be more than a month after free agency opens.
The comment also illustrates the general philosophical approach toward free agency that Zimmer and Spielman have developed separately over the years that didn't need much adjustment a year ago when Zimmer was hired.
It also could be an indicator of the amount of depth that's been attributed to the running backs in this year's draft class. Running backs, receivers and quarterbacks were making the rounds with reporters Thursday.
The screening process of incoming rookies can be far more expansive than of veterans on the market. All NFL teams are at the combine this week to evaluate the medical history, from a physical and mental standpoint, of prospects, their personalities in interviews and during sessions with the media and their performances in on-field timing and testing drills.
"I'd much rather go through the draft and find players than go through free agents," Zimmer said. "I think (free agents), if you don't know him and haven't coached him or somebody else hasn't coached him, you don't know somebody that has been around him that you really trust, I think you can make a lot of mistakes there."
The initial surge at the opening of free agency garners significant attention because of the size of some contracts that are doled out, but Zimmer doesn't expect that to be the Vikings' approach.
"We're not, I don't believe we're going to go out and pay some guy a whole bunch of money," Zimmer said. "When I was in Cincinnati and a lot of places, we would kind of go to the lower end free agents and coach them up and hope they fit in our system."
A Vikings example of letting the initial smoke clear was signing Tom Johnson in the second week last March. Johnson went from a little bit of a journeyman to finishing second on the Vikings with 6.5 sacks in 2014.
As for Peterson, Zimmer echoed support that Spielman, Owner/President Mark Wilf and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren have expressed in the past two weeks toward Peterson returning.
"I haven't changed my support of Adrian since he got suspended," Zimmer said. "It's still important for me that Adrian does all the things he's supposed to do, as far as the, you know, things mandated by the league, but also him becoming a better person in that aspect. All the other things, in my opinion, he's a pretty darn good person, and as I've said before, we all make mistakes. He made one, he's admitted to it, and we go from there.
"I'm hopeful that he's back with us and I think that people will realize and remember all the good things he's done throughout his career and not just on the football field," Zimmer said.