On Christmas Eve last year, during the third quarter of the Washington Redskins game, Adrian Peterson saw his young career flash before his eyes.
Some even thought this call by Chris Meyers and Tim Ryan was going to be the last play of Adrian Peterson’s career. “There goes Adrian Peterson, with an ankle tackle. Checking the statistics here as Peterson is slow to get up, and in the first half, boy that is a painful Peterson. Yea that doesn’t look good with his left leg, DeJon Gomes just came flying in there. Oh that’s ugly. That’s ugly, DeJon Gomes just put his shoulder pad right through the left knee of Adrian Peterson, and you can see he is in agony,” said Meyers and Ryan.
On that play late in December, Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2011-2012 season. Peterson was on pace to rush for his fifth straight 1,000 yard season before hurting his knee against the Redskins.
After already having injured his lateral collateral ligament in his right knee in 2007, speculation started to arise from the media that this could be the last anybody sees of Peterson. The knees are said to be the most important part of the body for elite running backs because of how they use them to cut up field and juke defenders.
Peterson, of all running backs, did not need this additional wear and tear on his body, having already enough bruises from initiating the contact with defenders due to the punishing style of his game. Around the league, he is known as a fierce runner, which is why defenders such as Gomes aim low on him. That is the only way small defenders can bring Peterson to the ground.
So the question remains, is Peterson done?
I would say that the history of comebacks for most running backs after serious knee injuries such as his is against him; however, Adrian Peterson is not like most running backs.
The man who was once nicknamed by his father as “All-Day” and now is referred to as “AD” has not taken the rehab lightly as do most running backs who suffer a knee injury.
Following his surgery, Peterson has been working with the Minnesota Vikings training staff every day to slowly but surely get back to full strength.
About a month ago on May 9, at the team’s Winter Park Field House, Peterson invited the media to come watch him do individual drills to showcase the progress he has made during his rehab program.
Peterson participated in drills moving horizontally to grab soccer balls, a drill where he runs around in a circle at full speed, and a drill where he displayed his knees strength by jumping on top of boxes.
This workout he participated in was a month ago, which was only four months removed from his surgery. Now, speed that up to this month, and you will find Peterson at mini-camp in Minnesota running sprints and doing separate individual drills right next to the fields where his teammates are practicing.
Last week, Peterson was even caught doing running drills up a hill with teammate Percy Harvin who has been sidelined because of his recent shoulder surgery. The two stole the show at practice by competing against one another in each sprint.
One can only help but think of the sports film “Brian’s Song” which was the story of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. During the 1968 season, Sayers who was leading the league in rushing for the Chicago Bears, tore ligaments in his right knee, causing him to miss the rest of the season. Piccolo, his teammate and fullback helped him rehab over the offseason to help strengthen his knee back to the way it was before the injury. Long story short, Sayers overcame his injury and led the league in rushing the following year in 1969, despite the doubts of critics.
Sayers is a prime example that a knee injury can be overcome if one works hard at strengthening their knee to get back to the level they were at before the injury.
Until the coaches tell him otherwise, Peterson is still determined to be healthy enough to play in the Vikings season opener on September 9, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When asked about how he feels when people say they don’t believe he will be physically and mentally ready to perform by the season opener, Peterson said, “I don’t know how to answer that question. And I struggle to even entertain it because that’s not the way my mind is tuned in. I can’t let that negativity seep in. My mindset is that I will be there. I want to be playing. Forget what everyone else says. The goal is the goal. And I’m going to accomplish it.”
The Vikings coaching staff will have less than 90 days before having to determine whether or not Peterson is ready for their season opener. Peterson still has a long way to go before the team can make that decision, however one thing is certain. It isn’t wise to bet against Peterson.
By Billy Bonneau