MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson heard the doubts as he tried to return from major knee surgery in time to play the first game of 2012.
Now that he’s back to practicing, another doubter is questioning Peterson’s quick recovery — the NFL’s all-time leading receiver.
Jerry Rice said on ESPN’s NFL Live on Monday that he believes Peterson is rushing back to the football field after December surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. Peterson, less than eight months out from his Dec. 31 surgery, was activated off the physically unable to perform list by Minnesota on Sunday and rejoined his team in practices.
Rice, who tore his ACL in Week 1 of the 1997 season, pushed through rehab and returned by Week 16 of that season only to fracture his kneecap during the game.
“I cracked my patella,” Rice said on NFL Live. “I feel that I rushed myself back to the football field. And I think that with Adrian Peterson, he’s doing the same thing. Because we are accustomed to being out there with the guys, sweating with the guys, fighting on the football field. And if you’re not able to do that, you just don’t feel connected. And that’s the reason why I rushed back. I hope he doesn’t do the same thing.”
Peterson tore the two ligaments in his left knee when he took a hit to the side of the knee while his leg was planted in the turf at Fed Ex Field on Dec. 24 in a road game at Washington. Peterson had surgery a week later and vowed to return in time for the first regular season game of 2012. The Vikings open the season Sept. 9 at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Peterson might even return to action earlier, possibly getting into one of the final two preseason games.
Rice, who was put in a full cast when the procedure was done in 1997, reportedly sawed off the cast in his attempt to return earlier than doctors had advised.
He wishes he had given himself the proper recovery time.
“I thought I was invincible,” Rice said. “I felt I did all the work, and it was time for me to get back on that football field. But if I had to do it all over again, I would take more time to heal up, then come back.”
But Peterson’s recovery has been over seven months, compared to Rice, who returned less than four months later. Peterson was also never in a cast. The surgery, performed regularly now, has likely gone through several advancements since Rice had his surgery.
Peterson said from the beginning he would be back in time for the season opener and wasn’t worried about a nine- to 12-month recovery time.
“In my mind I was like, ‘Hey, I know it’s not going to be nine months,'” Peterson said Sunday when he was activated from the PUP list. “But I’m just going to control what I can control and that’s working my butt off every day and taking advantage of everything. Even with the rehab stuff that I did here in Minnesota and Houston, really grinding and getting some good work out of it.”
Peterson said he worked through the hardest part of the rehab process, getting strength back in the leg and range of motion in his knee. He has said he feels “normal” and is ready to return to action.
But he knows there have been doubters along the way, and the doubt will continue until he proves he’s ready.
“You sense it from people,” Peterson said. “You know, just from the media and the people you talk to. Some family, not necessarily the fans, doubting you, but they’re not speaking the same words that I’m speaking and my vision is leading me to see. They’re not speaking the same things. So, with that, I’m in disagreement with it. I know they love me and everything, but I’m in disagreement with it. From that standpoint, that’s the way I look at it. But, it doesn’t matter, I didn’t let it affect me because I had my mind set on what I wanted to accomplish. And I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to take work. Faith without work is dead. So, I had my faith in the right place and I had my mind, my work ethic, my will in the right place. I’m back.”