On December 24th, Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson suffered a major knee injury and had to celebrate the new year while recovering from reconstructive surgery.

On Wednesday, Peterson and head trainer Eric Sugarman met with Minneapolis media to show that both the player and team are cautiously optimistic that he will be able to return to playing meaningful football early in the 2012 season, perhaps even the opening game.

“That first game against Jacksonville, I plan on being back, so that will be disappointing if I’m not,” said Peterson.

“I’ve been ahead of the schedule since Day One,” Peterson continued. “The staff here, the staff down in Houston, they’ve been doing a great job with just pushing me, pushing me, but having that limit on it and knowing that, ‘Hey, Adrian, I know you want to do this, but you’ve just got to play it slow and it will come.’ ”

“You know, he’s to the point now where he’s really safe to do just about anything,” Sugarman said. “We gradually ramp him up to functional activity, and when we get to the point where he’s comfortable and has normal strength back to the other side — or better than the other side — and can function as he needs to, then we make that decision.

“He realizes now that there’s too much to lose by doing something foolish,” Sugarman added. “He has been pretty good. Now you have to pull back on the reins every once in a while and just remind him. But he has been pretty good about it, and I’m on the record as saying that he’ll continue.”

Peterson worked out in front of the media on Wednesday, performing a litany of drills and exercises to show just how far he has come.  He wore a brace on his knee for everything except for straight-line running.  Cutting and deceleration are the hardest things to do for Peterson at this point.

While Peterson showed a willingness to appease trainers by taking things as slow as his ultra-competitive personality will let him, he said that he has no intentions of playing second fiddle to Toby Gerhart once he does make it onto the field in the regular season.

“I’m not going to see myself in a limited role,” he said. “I want to be out there full throttle. … I feel like I’ll be able to go out there and help my team. That’s where my mind-set is going to be at.”