Adrian Peterson's competitiveness isn't limited to running the football.
Talking Wednesday about his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee, the Minnesota Vikings' star running back stopped and corrected himself in talking about the day he hurt his knee playing against the Washington Redskins. He wasn't "carted" off the field. Not Adrian Peterson. He "walked" off the field, he pointed out, making sure to denote the distinction.
Peterson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Dec. 24 and had surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews on Dec. 30. He remains on track for an eight- to nine-month rehabilitation and optimistic about playing in the Vikings' first regular-season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no matter what others say about that possibility.
"I'm set on what my mindset is. People can say what they want to say, I've got my goals," Peterson said. "My whole life I've been setting my goals and pushing forward. I've been successful with doing that. I've been smart, don't get me wrong. I've been smart about the process and I'm four months out."
One of the people that matters most in the process, Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, said he won't put a timetable on Peterson's availability. While Peterson said he is "light years" ahead of where he was when the rehabilitation started four months ago, Sugarman noted there are exactly four months remaining until the season opener on Sept. 9.
When that time comes, Sugarman said, it will be a group decision between the medical staff, coaches and Peterson himself.
But don't look for Peterson to anticipate any delays. He said he has been "ahead of schedule since Day 1." And don't look for him to be satisfied with a limited role even if he is able to play in the season opener.
"I'm not going to see myself in a limited role. I want to be out there full throttle," Peterson said. "When the time comes, we will play the cards how they're laid. I feel like I'll be able to go out there and help my team. That's where my mindset is going to be at."
Peterson started running on dry land at the end of March and showed off his rehabilitative progress in front of the media Wednesday. He shuffled briskly back and forth retrieving a soccer ball rolled out to him from Sugarman, standing about five yards away. He sprinted around a hula hoop. He ran wind sprints. And, finally, he did plyometric work, jumping repeatedly on top of a stack of boxes about 3½ feet high.
Shortly after the injury, Sugarman predicted Phase 5 of the rehab – when "you don't have really many restrictions at all as far as what you can and can't do safely" – would be about four months after surgery. Peterson is now slightly less than four months and two weeks past the surgery, and Sugarman said he began that phase two to three weeks ago.
"You have to pull back on the reins every once in a while and just remind him, but he's been pretty good about it and I'm on the record as saying that he'll continue," Sugarman said.
Peterson is at Week 19 of his rehab, but his focus is squarely on Week 1 of the regular season, even if he is only 50 percent of full strength in his ability to cut, by his estimates.
"That's just the way I'm wired. I've been this way since I was young, since I started playing this game at age 7. I always wanted to be the best in whatever I did – whatever sprints, lifting, whatever. Sixteen years, 17 years of that, it becomes part of you. It's just instilled in me. It's just the way I am."
Peterson rushed for 970 yards on 208 carries last year before the knee injury. He became the first Vikings running back to lead the NFL in rushing with a team-record 1,760 yards in 2008 and set the NFL's single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers in 2007, the eighth game of his career, and was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007.
Since 2007, Peterson leads the NFL in rushing yards with 6,752 and touchdowns with 64.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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