The Vikings know a thing or two about a star player recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and succeeding the next year.
Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in December 2011, didn't miss a game in 2012 and rushed for 2,097 yards, eight shy of the NFL single-season record. Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who had his pro day Wednesday, tore his ACL on Nov. 29 and is already back throwing in front of NFL personnel.
Mettenberger said he is 85 to 90 percent of the way back from his knee surgery and he proved it to a field full of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches Wednesday. The Vikings, including general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, were among the many teams represented.
"It's amazing that he came back that quickly after three, three-and-a-half months of where he was at," Spielman said after Mettenberger's workout. "It tells you what type of kid he is and the effort he put into his rehab to come out here and even do what he did today."
The Vikings have certainly been displaying a lot of interest in Mettenberger and had a private workout and meeting with him after his pro day, which has been standard procedure for the Vikings with many of the other top quarterback prospects in the draft.
The Vikings aren't alone in their interest of the big signal-caller that completed 61.8 percent of his 659 passes in two seasons at LSU for 5,783 yards, 35 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
He was flying to Jacksonville for a private meeting Thursday and then heading to Detroit on Saturday.
"I haven't had any private workouts with teams. Hopefully I'll get more now that they've seen I'm okay … But I think teams were afraid to work me out because they didn't want me to injure anything," Mettenberger said after his pro day. "So I haven't had any private workouts, but I've been throwing every day with the guys here that are in town."
The main takeaway from Wednesday's workout was that Mettenberger's knee has made tremendous progress. He believes he will be ready for May minicamps with whatever NFL team drafts him.
"I've been saying for a couple of weeks now that I'm healthy and good enough to go, and I don't think all of y'all believed me. I think that was the biggest thing I wanted to do – show that I could go out there and take an explosive drop and throw the ball downfield like everyone knows I can," he said.
"I think people think it's pretty remarkable at 13 weeks where I'm at. I did a lot of good things today, but sometimes I hold myself to an almost unrealistic standard. I wasn't too pleased with myself on some of those throws today, but all things considered I thought I did okay but still a lot of room to improve."
Mettenberger threw about 125 passes, according to ESPN, and looked "sharp" throwing in shoulder pads and a helmet, a practice started by Johnny Manziel at his pro day.
"I think Zach is a guy that will really play at a very high level in the NFL, and I think he'll climb into an elevated position. I think he's improving. I think they'll see that his leg is in the high 90 percentile. He's back. I think he'll throw extremely well, and he's going to play in the NFL for a long time. I'll be surprised if he's not a very early draft pick," LSU coach Les Miles said.
"When he showed up here and really did not play a lot, he was kind of in the backdrop. We didn't necessarily feel his presence. When we turned to him and he became that player, he really stepped into a role of leadership. We felt like he needed to take on more of a position of team leader than necessarily quarterback. He did that. He's one of the toughest guys on our team and continued to improve through his last snaps. I think he'll play a long time in the NFL."
After playing two years at Butler County College following a transfer from Georgia after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual battery, Mettenberger came on strong for the Tigers when he was named their starter. He ranks fifth in school history with 35 touchdown passes, seventh with 659 pass attempts, third with a 61.76 completion percentage, and is the sixth player in school history to complete 400 passes.
At 6-foot-5½ and 242 pounds and possessing one of the strongest arms in the draft, Mettenberger certainly has the measurables scouts look for at the position, making him an intriguing prospect for the system employed by new Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
"I wouldn't comment on our (system), but on any franchise if you're looking for a big quarterback and one who has a big arm (Mettenberger qualifies)," Spielman said. "He showed out here (Wednesday) that he does have a strong arm. He's still only three-and-a-half months off that ACL (surgery), but it's amazing how far he's come."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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