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Vikings' Adrian Peterson feeling good but not ready to play

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.--Adrian Peterson said he feels good after going through two full practices this week, but the Vikings running back stopped well short of declaring himself available for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

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Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) talk after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium earlier this month. Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.-Adrian Peterson said he feels good after going through two full practices this week, but the Vikings running back stopped well short of declaring himself available for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Peterson, 31, has been out since tearing a meniscus in his right knee in a 17-14 victory over Green Bay on Sept. 18. He had surgery the following week and placed on Injured Reserve, and has expressed interest in returning this season if the Vikings (7-6) are still in the race for a playoff spot.

If they lose to the Colts (6-7) on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, those chances will take a considerable hit.

"I feel good," Peterson said after Thursday's practice at Winter Park. "It's my second day of practice, so I'm just getting back into the rhythm of things. I've been able to kind of gauge how I feel out there, and the last two days have gone pretty smoothly."

Peterson has a history of healing quickly. After tearing ligaments in his left knee in December 2011, he returned ahead of schedule to rush for 2,097 yards and win the NFL MVP Award in 2012.

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But, he said Thursday, returning from a meniscus tear can take six months. It's been only three months since he was injured. The knee, he acknowledged, remains as much a concern as getting comfortable playing after 12 weeks of rehab.

"It's a combination of both," he said. "I'm out there practicing, so I'm able to test my knee out and see how I feel being out there and making cuts, accelerating and things like that. It's just a combination of both. We'll see with more time, the more time I get to see if I feel comfortable."

Peterson has been wearing a brace on his knee in practice and said he plans to wear it if he plays in a game this season.

"I definitely plan on keeping the knee brace on, just to make sure I'm protected," he said. "It's like, why not? The new titanium brace is super light - a little uncomfortable, because I don't really like anything on my knees, but taking in the situation, I'll wear it."

Head coach Mike Zimmer said before practice that Peterson looked "pretty good" and did everything expected of the running backs on Wednesday, but he stopped short of declaring the 2015 NFL rushing champion ready for competition.

"He needs to continue to work," Zimmer said.

If healthy, Peterson would be a welcome addition as the Vikings try to salvage a playoff berth out of this once-promising season. They were the NFL's last unbeaten team on Oct. 9 but have gone 2-6 since. Because they're two games behind Detroit in the NFC North, and were swept by the Lions this season, a wild-card berth is their only realistic shot.

Peterson has on more than one occasion declared the Dec. 24 game at Green Bay is his target return date. He suffered his injuries during the teams' first meeting 12 weeks ago.

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"That would be the goal I had set before me, so I'm just going to continue to take it one day at a time, and when the time comes, as a group, we'll sit down and talk and see which direction it's best to go in," he said Thursday.

Peterson ran 31 times for 40 yards before being hurt, averaging 1.6 yards a carry, and the run game hasn't improved much since. In his stead, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata have rushed a combined 236 times for 742 yards, and the Vikings' rushing average of 73.4 yards a game ranks dead last among the NFL's 32 teams.

Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday the Colts are preparing for Peterson - "We'd be foolish not to," he said - but a decision on his status likely won't be made at least until after Friday afternoon's final practice of the week.

"We'll have to see where he's at (with) conditioning. I mean, there's so many things to figure out," Zimmer said. "I think he's in pretty good shape (but) he hasn't sat in meetings for three months. There's a lot of things to consider."

Peterson appears willing to help the team if he feels he can. That's why he's back at practice.

"It really came down to how my body feels, the meniscus and how it looks and how it was feeling, what percentage is healed," Peterson said. "So, there's a lot of things I was factoring in - the rest, as well. It's a lot to think about. I've just been weighing options."

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