When the Minnesota Vikings come to FedEx Field Sunday, running back Adrian Peterson will return to the place where his 2011 season ended. Peterson tore his ACL when he was tackled by safety DeJon Gomes.
Peterson made a rapid recovery, and opened the season as Minnesota’s starter, only eight months after surgery. Five weeks into the season, Peterson ranks eighth in the NFL with 420 rushing yards on 96 carries.
“He looks pretty good. He’s still explosive, still can make some great cuts and great reads,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said of Peterson. “He still has his vision. If he’s not 100 percent, he’s 98 percent. But he looks really good out there. He’s definitely a freak of nature when you look at his injury happening in December and to come back this early and be playing that well. You don’t notice him favoring that leg or running around gimpy or anything.”
Peterson was determined to open the season as Minnesota’s starter rather than miss time. Despite his drive, Vikings coaches questioned the likelihood of a Week 1 comeback.
“That he would come back and play as well as he’s played up to this point is amazing to me,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. “To open up the season against Jacksonville and run the way he ran–I was hoping he would be able to come back and play, but to see him perform the way he has performed, it’s a credit to his hard work, to our doctors and trainers doing the things they’ve done, but he is an amazing athlete – just amazing.”
Despite not playing in the preseason, Peterson had a strong regular season opener, rushing for 84 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Two weeks ago, he had his best outing of the season, rushing for 102 yards on 21 carries. He also had four catches for 20 yards.
“After knowing I had a good eight, nine months to bounce back, I just set my goal, praying and believing that if I did my part, then God would come through and help me reach the goal I set. That’s pretty much what I’ve done my entire life when faced with controversy or whatever, just put it in his hands and do my part and see how it turns out.”
Despite his production, Peterson still hasn’t fully returned to 100 percent. But he and the Vikings believe he isn’t far off.
“He’s pretty close,” Frazier said. “If you ask him, he’ll probably say he’s about five percent away from being where he thinks he needs to be. The runs he’s made the last couple weeks [including a season long of 34 last week], tells me that he’s real close to being the Adrian that we’re so familiar with. He’s on the cusp of one of those breakout games.”