Peterson Amazes Packers But Not Himself

Adrian Peterson (Tom Dahlin/Getty)

Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve, has returned to post one of the best seasons by a running back in NFL history. The Packers say he looks better than ever. Is that surprising? "It's surprising people around me, which puts a smile on my face."

By any measure, Alex Green is an elite athlete, one of the best in the world.

Adrian Peterson is not from this world.

Green tore his ACL on Oct. 23, 2011. The Green Bay Packers brought him back slowly in training camp and the preseason, and he didn't get a real role in the offense for about 50 weeks.

Peterson tore his ACL and MCL on Dec. 24. Four months later, he was sprinting up a hill alongside the Vikings' practice field. By May, in a show put on for reporters, Peterson showed his explosion with a 42-inch vertical leap. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wanted to put Peterson on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp. Peterson talked him out of it and took part in his first padded practice two weeks later.

On Sunday, the rampaging Peterson will take aim at the Packers in a vital NFC North clash at Lambeau Field.

"He definitely did something that a lot of guys can't do," Green said on Wednesday. "Without counting the injury and just him being a great athlete, that's impressive, then add on to it that he's coming off major knee surgery, that's definitely something that's respected. There are guys like me that have come off knee surgery, we know how hard it is and I definitely give props to him.

Thirty-eight weeks after the injury, Peterson was in the starting lineup. Almost unbelievably, he leads the NFL in rushing with 1,236 yards. That's more than 18 teams and 128 yards more than the Packers. His 5.8 yards per carry is a stunning 0.9 yards better than his career average. His 112.4 yards per game is the best mark of his career and puts him on pace for 1,798 yards. That would be the 20th-best season in NFL history. He's recorded a career-best five consecutive 100-yard games and averaged 147.4 rushing yards during that stretch. If he continues that pace for the next five games, he'd finish with 1,973 yards, which would be the seventh-highest total in NFL history.

"I'm really amazed," Frazier, whose career was ruined by a torn ACL sustained while playing safety for the Bears in Super Bowl XX, said in a conference call on Wednesday. "All of us were hoping that he would come back and be a good player. But to come back and and he's the best running back in the National Football League as far as yards, it's an amazing feat. When you consider the impact an ACL injury can have on a guy's career, especially a running back, I'm amazed. But he's that type of player, that type of person. He continues to amaze me."

Peterson is not amazed.

"No, no. I haven't surprised myself. It's surprising people around me, which puts a smile on my face," Peterson said during his conference call. "These are things that I set out forth to accomplish — to come back stronger and better to help my team. I knew that I could do it (but) a lot of people didn't. I also know that it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, as long as you focus on what you want to accomplish. Whatever it is, you can get it done. It's simple."

Some of it is genes. Peterson is a once-in-a-generation athlete and perhaps the best at the position since the legendary Jim Brown. Just as much of it is attitude and drive and will.

"I can say going through this ACL is probably the most serious injury I've had," he said. "The recovery for me was knowing that I was starting over, pretty much. It made me hungrier than I already was. This offseason, I definitely learned how to take it to a different level."

A "different level" is a scary thought considering Peterson, with 7,988 rushing yards, is about to become the sixth-fastest player to 8,000 in NFL history.

"I think he's better, scary to say," defensive end Ryan Pickett said. "I already thought he was the best back, hands down, in the league, and now he's looking better on tape. I was shocked when we started watching tape on him. I'm like, ‘Wow, he blew his knee out.' You just don't expect to see him do the things he's doing. This has probably been one of his better years he's ever had. He's running the ball great. We were watching the run cut-ups and it's like a highlight reel. I'm like, ‘Wow, what is this?' He's averaging almost 6 yards a carry. That's unheard of."

Safety Morgan Burnett knows what Peterson went through. Burnett tore his ACL in Week 4 of his rookie season of 2010 and wound up starting all 16 games in 2011.

"When you see him on the field, he still looks like the same Adrian Peterson," Burnett said. "It just shows you the work ethic that he put into it coming back. I know from my experience, rehabbing is tough. It's about what you put in is what you get out. You can see when you put hard work into it, you have a speedy recovery."

Peterson has faced the Packers 10 times and emerged victorious on just three occasions. He's torn them up, however, with 1,033 yards and seven touchdowns. His averages of 103.3 yards, 5.1 per carry and 0.7 touchdowns are better than his league-wide averages of 95.1 yards, 4.9 per carry and 0.8 touchdowns.

"Nobody. Nobody. There's nobody like Adrian Peterson," Pickett said. "There's only one. He's on a whole other level."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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