Adrian Peterson knows he set he set a tough-to-duplicate example for others when he returned from reconstructive knee surgery in record time and went on to win the NFL MVP award.
He’s trying to live up to the same high standard in his latest recovery.
Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings’ star running back, has been healing from January groin surgery and feels he’s close to rejoining his team in offseason workouts.
"I can’t really put a date on it, but yeah, I do look forward to start participating," Peterson said Wednesday when asked if he’d be participating in Minnesota’s offseason workout program. "Right now the most important thing is getting healthy. That’s what I’m doing. I’m rehabbing, working out still to get the body back to where it needs to be."
Peterson, 29, has credited genetics for his impressive recuperative powers, but he also recognized a product called Hyperice — which combines compression and cryotherapy for healing and reducing swelling — for helping him recover from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and win the MVP award in 2012 following a season in which he rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-highest single-season total in league history.
A three-time All-Pro in his seven-year NFL career, Peterson said he has learned the importance of taking care of his body and the importance of cold therapy. He called Hyperice a "game-changer" and has even taken part ownership in the company.
Peterson still uses the device and said he’s used it in recovery for his groin. Peterson underwent surgery in January for the third consecutive offseason following knee surgery in Dec. 2011 and sports hernia surgery last year.
While the Vikings returned this week for the start of the team’s voluntary offseason workout program, Peterson feels he’s close.
"I can’t say that I’m back right now, but I am not far," Peterson said. "I’m not far off at all."
Limited to 14 games last season because of a groin injury and sprained foot, Peterson finished with 1,266 rushing yards, which ranked fifth in the league.
Peterson said he originally injured the groin at Dallas on Nov. 3 and tried to play through the injury, which he believes contributed to the foot injury he suffered in snowy conditions at Baltimore on Dec. 8.
He hoped to avoid surgery, but had a procedure to repair his adductor muscle and to complete a "compartmental release" on Jan. 23 by the same doctor who performed his sports hernia surgery a year earlier.
"I feel like the foot injury was a reflection of the groin because I wasn’t able to cut and be as elusive as I needed to be," Peterson said. "But just being the competitor that I am, I don’t come out and say that. I try to get it done no matter what. I just feel like I wasn’t putting myself in too much of harm’s way because I feel like I didn’t have the lateral movement but I was still going to be able to kind of get outside the tackle box, and cut up and get up field fast enough to prevent different situations that could possibly put me in a bad predicament. But now I’m feeling good. I’m training hard."
An aging Peterson is still one of the best backs in the NFL and one of the top offensive weapons for Minnesota. He doesn’t feel a need to limit his carries at all because of the way he’s tried to take care of his body and his relentless work ethic.
"That’s one thing I’ve learned, you got to take care of the body and that’s something that I’ve been doing," Peterson said. "As far as putting in the hard work, that’s what I’m going to do."
Peterson’s work ethic has never been in doubt. New coach Mike Zimmer wants to see if Peterson is a leader as well, telling an Austin, Texas, radio station last week that he’ll see who the leaders are during the team’s minicamp later this month.
Peterson said he understands Zimmer’s comment, but he’s doing his part to be ready for his team and this season.
"That’s something I really take pride in as well," Peterson said. "So, that’s all a part of me taking care of my business when I’m away from the facility. It’s a normal routine for me. When I’m not in Minnesota, I’m taking care of my body. I’m working out extremely hard to be able to be productive for my team. Coming off the groin surgery, I was slowed down a little bit. But I’ve been able to recover a lot faster. So, yeah, it is what it is. I understand and respect exactly what he has to say."
Now Peterson is being held up to the same high standard of recovery he set in 2012. He knows he might have set the expectations unfairly high for other players, and he’s not sure others will be able to follow the same path because of his workout regimen, recounting the type of workout days he used to recover from knee surgery.
"When I look back on it now, I knew once I came back and had the type of season that I had, I knew that it was going to be hard for anyone to duplicate that type of success after ACL," Peterson said. "Why do I say that? I say that because genetics for one thing and the work that I put in, I can’t really express how hard I worked, how hard I grind. It was excruciating just as far as a time commitment and the pain that I had to endure and just the focus and mindset. So, me going through it, I knew what it took to be able to come back.
"I knew what it took and I knew that the work alone would be hard for anybody to duplicate," the Vikings star added. "So, I set the bar high and I knew it was going to raise some trouble for a lot of people. Not to say that other guys can’t work hard to come back, but I know what type of work I put in. I try to share it with people, but people have their own ways and that’s perfectly fine, as well. I knew it was going to be extremely hard for someone to come out and put that work in that I put in."