Ten Months After Significant Knee Injury, Adrian Peterson Back To Form
ASHBURN – The thoughts rushed through DeJon Gomes’ mind for quite some time.
Here he was, a rookie safety, and there was Adrian Peterson, Minnesota’s elite running back, lying on the turf, his left knee crumpled up underneath him.
The sight followed him for days. What should he do? Should he try to reach out to Peterson? Would Peterson even want to talk to him? What would he say?
“I’m just glad that he [was] able to recover from an injury like that,” Gomes, who ultimately decided not to try to contact Peterson, said Wednesday. “I didn’t realize the severity until I was halfway off the field.”
A Pro Bowler in each of his first four seasons, Peterson’s chance at five consecutive trips to Honolulu ended in December when Gomes hit the running back early in the third quarter of the Vikings’ eventual victory. Peterson ended up tearing the ACL and MCL in the knee, ending his season a week early.
Not only has Peterson been able to return from such an injury after just nine months, a remarkable feat in itself, but he’s incredibly picked up where he left off. The 6-foot-1, 217-pound running back enters this weekend’s rematch at FedEx Field fifth in the NFL in rushing with 420 yards and two touchdowns.
“If you hold your head down during that situation, it doesn’t help the process,” Peterson said. “I just had to change my mind frame and head in a direction that I had set for myself.”
The Vikings were without Peterson during offseason workouts, through training camp and into the preseason. In fact, his return to action came during the overtime victory over Jacksonville in the season opener when he rushed for 84 yards and both touchdowns on 17 carries.
“When it happened, none of us really knew” if he would return, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. “We had ideas based on the history of other players who had come back and played coming off an injury like this, but to say that he would come back and play as well as he’s played up to this point is amazing to me.
“I mean, to open the season up against Jacksonville and to run the way he ran – I was hoping he’d 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 our trainer doing the things they’ve done. He’s an amazing athlete. Just amazing.”
Frazier estimated that if anything, Peterson appears to be “about five percent away from being where he thinks he needs to be.” From watching him on film, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher estimated Peterson is at 98 percent.
“He’s definitely a freak of nature when you look at his injury happened, I think, in December,” Fletcher said. “To be able to come back this early and be playing that well, you don’t notice him favoring a leg or running around gimpy or things like that. He’s definitely a genetic freak.”
Peterson said his determination and his faith were what got him through the rehabilitation process. Given that it was Christmas Eve when the injury happened, the initial sadness hit perhaps a bit harder than it would have on any other day.
As for Gomes, Peterson said he understands the hit was just part of the game.
“He was just out there playing ball and it happened,” Peterson said. “No grudges at all.”
And that phone call?
“I don’t know what he could have said that would make me feel better,” he said. “It happens.”