EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson has pushed through a full calendar year of intensive workouts and amazing games, putting together one of the most remarkable seasons ever by an NFL running back less than a year removed from major knee surgery.
Peterson has a chance to rest now after the Minnesota Vikings were ousted from the playoffs — at least for a week.
Peterson, who came up eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, has his sights set on 2,500 in 2013 and he plans to get to work early again this offseason in pursuit of his goals.
“I have a week or two and just kind of relax, not even that because I’m still going to be lifting and stuff, but I’m all in,” Peterson said Monday. “I’m about to grind again this offseason and come back and be better than I was this year.”
It’s tough to imagine Peterson can be any better. He is one of the top candidates for the league’s MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year awards and was named to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in his six seasons as he led the league with 2,097 rushing yards, the second-highest single-season total in league history.
Peterson said his rehab and recovery last offseason from his 2011 surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee was a “blessing in disguise.” The highly motivated Peterson worked hard to return as strong as he was prior to the injury and saw the results of the work he put in during an intensive rehab.
“I’m blessed,” Peterson said. “I’m a year off an ACL, MCL injury. So when I look back, outside of not being in the playoffs still and making that run, God has really shown me when you depend on him or lean on him and not draw on your own understanding, the things that you can accomplish. I feel that a lot of the people that doubted me became believers and grew in faith because of everybody looking at this and saying, ‘Oh, it’s a miracle.’
“So they’re opening their eyes because I definitely be giving him all the praise because that’s the reason why I was able to do what I was able to do personally. With that, I feel like the work is done. The rewards and accomplishments are good, but being able to change someone’s mindset, whether it’s a little kid or grownups and make them believe differently and look at it in a different light, that’s the ultimate goal. That’s been done. So, I’m pleased.”
Peterson said he hopes to be joined by several of his teammates for workouts this offseason and he would take the opportunity to push them as well. Peterson said he never doubted he could return better than he was before and he did so by putting together the best season of his career.
“I didn’t wow myself,” Peterson said. “This is what I expected. I know it sounds nonchalant, but I assure you that I did. That’s why I’m able to take things as it is. But I felt that there’s just room for me to get better, and I look forward to doing that.”
He wowed the rest of the NFL. But he also knows the focus on coming up short of Dickerson’s mark overshadowed, for some, everything he had accomplished. Not for Peterson.
The record would have been nice — and he definitely has his sights set on shattering the mark next year — but losing in the playoffs hurt a lot more than finishing nine yards away from having his name in the record books.
“For me, to get that record would have been a bonus,” Peterson said. “I didn’t feel any type of mental pain or hurt until Sunday after the Green Bay game when I didn’t…nine yards short? Yeah, it sucks, but I felt pain and hurt to the core once we lost to Green Bay.”