EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Overcoming the mental hurdle with injuries never seemed to bother Adrian Peterson.
He defined the mindset needed to return from devastating injuries when he attacked his rehabilitation from reconstructive knee surgery last year to miss only one regular season game, returning in less than a year to appear in the first game last season and then shocking everyone by winning the NFL MVP award.
His latest setback, a tight hamstring, surprisingly, had provided a mental obstacle for Peterson. Peterson didn’t miss Monday night’s game, but lingering hamstring tightness made him hesitant.
“I feel like it was definitely hurting a little bit,” Peterson said Thursday. “I feel like it was more in my mind. It’s strange to say that, but I think I was kind of holding myself back, not being able to stretch out and really run. I think I was kind of hindering myself. Now that I’m able to be more relaxed and got a clearer mind, I think I’ll be able to go out there and roll full speed.”
Peterson had 13 carries for 28 yards Monday night. His biggest play was a 22-yard reception where he didn’t seem to have his usual burst and he couldn’t avoid his momentum taking him out of bounds with a wide-open field in front of him.
Peterson said he’s been dealing with the hamstring injury for about four to five weeks and the muscle had gotten progressively tighter before he told coaches about it last week.
“The way that it came on wasn’t like a normal hamstring, like a tweak or anything like that,” Peterson said. “It kind of gradually became sore, kind of climbed up from the bottom of my hamstring, up to the middle. I didn’t really know what was wrong, but I’m feeling good now. I’ve been doing a lot of work with (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman and his staff. They’ve been keeping me in the training room, keeping me ready.”
Peterson said his involvement in Monday’s game, when he had 13 carries to quarterback Josh Freeman’s 53 pass attempts, wasn’t related to the hamstring injury. Peterson, who called this week’s game against Green Bay a “must-win,” said he’s over his hamstring issues and joked he’d like “100” carries a game.
Peterson missed practice on Wednesday with the hamstring injury, but he returned as a full participant Thursday, and coach Leslie Frazier said he was a “full-go.”
“I feel like I can keep playing through it,” Peterson said. “I’ll be OK. It’s not tweaked or anything. It actually came from a bruise that occurred about five weeks ago. I think just overworking the hamstring brought that tightness. So now I’m like, my hamstring is tight. I don’t want to stretch or pull anything so it’s more that type of situation.”
Last year at this time, in Minnesota’s seventh game of the season, is when Peterson started his historic run to the MVP. Those mental challenges in returning from the knee injury were a thing of the past and Peterson had no further physical issues, either.
In the seventh game last year, Peterson had 23 carries for 153 yards in a 21-14 win against the Arizona Cardinals. He ended the season with more than 100 yards rushing in nine of the last 10 games, including more than 200 yards rushing twice.
“You know, just repetition I would say,” Peterson said about what started his dominating run of games. “Just being able to get stronger and get more comfortable, after that fifth or sixth week.”
One of the 200-yard games was against Green Bay, this week’s opponent. Peterson had 210 yards in the first game at Green Bay and followed with 199 at home in the regular-season finale, falling eight yards shy of the league’s single-season rushing record.
Peterson can think of no better time than Week 8 against Green Bay to turn his 2013 season around.
With 23 total carries the past two weeks, Peterson is eager for more work, hamstring issues and all.
“Anytime you have two games with 13 carries or less, you definitely want more touches to get in the flow of things,” Peterson said. “(Carolina, a 35-10 loss), the game got out of whack so we had to get away from the run game. But one thing that we’re going to do and get back to focusing on is establishing the run, getting those guys up front working and sweating and then be able to become more balanced.”