EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson was recognized as the NFL’s MVP last season, an award voted on by the media. Peterson earned the respect of players around the league though after rushing for 2,097 yards, the second-highest single-season total in league history.
The players showed their respect by voting Peterson the league’s best player in the annual top 100 ranking done by the NFL Network. The network polled players around the league, and Peterson’s honor was revealed by the network Thursday evening.
“I’ve had three ACLs in my life,” Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels said on the broadcast. “To come back the way he did, literally like nothing happened, better than he was the year before, I don’t understand it. It’s got to be genetics man.”
Peterson won the MVP award and was also the league’s offensive player of the year award winner following his return less than a year from major knee surgery. Peterson ran for 2,097 yards — only eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record — and had 40 catches for 217 yards. He scored 13 touchdowns.
Peterson did it all after returning to the field just more than eight months from surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments, shocking the NFL in the process.
“To be voted No. 1 by my peers, it really means a lot, especially coming off the major injury that I had and all the support I got through that process,” Peterson said on the reaction show afterward. “I’ve got to give thanks to my offensive line too, because without those guys I wouldn’t be sitting here today. There’s a lot of guys that go unshown that really helped me to get to this point today. I’ve got to congratulate those guys as well.”
Peterson’s started the season’s first game and got stronger as the year progressed. His historic second-half run put him on the edge of breaking Dickerson’s record when he had eight straight 100-yard rushing games, including two games of more than 200 yards. He went over 100 yards rushing in nine of his final 10 games, only missing a late-season game against Houston when he was pulled early from a 23-6 win against the Texans with 86 yards rushing.
Peterson also revealed later, after complaining of abdominal pain, that he had played through a sports hernia. Peterson became the first running back to win the MVP award since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and just the eighth running back to win the award in the past 26 years, breaking the quarterback stranglehold on the MVP award.
Peterson, the leading rusher in Vikings’ history, was the fourth Minnesota player listed on the NFL Network’s top 100. The Vikings also had defensive end Jared Allen (No. 60), linebacker Chad Greenway (No. 70) and last year’s leading receiver, Percy Harvin (No. 90), who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason, on the list.
Peterson, ranked No. 8 last season and in the top 10 each of the three years the list has been developed, was followed on the NFL Network list by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis in the top 10 released Thursday.
“Clearly there’s always quarterbacks that are going to be at the top: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers,” Greenway said. “Those guys are all worthy of that, but to me there’s no guy that symbolizes the MVP of his team. To come back from injury, the respect that he has to be granted every week, maybe I’m a little biased, but to me it’s AP. He’s unbelievable.”
Rodgers ranked No. 1 on the list last season, giving the NFC North back-to-back top-overall picks. Tom Brady was No. 1 in 2010, meaning the reigning MVP has won the top spot in the players’ listing each year.
“Oh yeah, I feel like I can do it again,” Peterson said. “I thought in the past I should have been No. 1 before. To each his own, but I feel like with the team I’ve got surrounding me, the mindset and my work ethic, that I can definitely come back and be No. 1 again.”