Peterson: ‘Ahead of schedule since Day 1’

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson feels he’s come so far in his rehabilitation from left knee surgery that he went ahead and proved it to the Twin Cities media on Wednesday.

Peterson, who underwent surgery on Dec. 30 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial collateral ligament along with meniscus damage, is still planning to return for the 2012 season opener on Sept. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s been running since the beginning of April, and coach Leslie Frazier said two weeks ago that Peterson outraced teammates in straight-line sprints.

Peterson’s original goal after surgery was to be ready in time for the season opener. Five months later, he hasn’t shied from the projection.

“I’ll be very surprised,” Peterson said of his chances of missing the season opener. “I’ve been ahead of the schedule since Day 1. The staff up here in Minnesota, (Vikings head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman and his guys, the staff down in Houston, Russ Payne and his guys, James Cook, they’ve been doing a good job of just pushing me. But having a limit on it, saying, ‘Hey Adrian, I know you want to do this, but you’ve just got to play it slow and it will come.’

“From Square 1, I’ve been ahead of the curve. For me personally, that’s my goal; I set my expectations high and my goals high. That first game against Jacksonville I plan on being back. It will be disappointing if I’m not.”

Peterson went through a series of drills in front of cameras and more than 30 media members, showing he has the ability to cut and run. Sugarman led Peterson through a side-to-side drill in which he caught a soccer ball and passed it back before shuffling across and repeating the task. Peterson then ran circles around a hoop at quick speed, ran sprints the width of the field and also showed some explosiveness by leaping from a standing position onto boxes about 3 1/2 feet in the air.

Sugarman said Peterson had already been through some training and lifting earlier in the day and said his workouts are typically about two hours per day. Peterson is 19 weeks post-op, nearly halfway between the surgery date and his goal of starting the first game.

“He certainly attacked the rehab as we expected,” Sugarman said. “It’s been a great approach so far for a good result. We’re happy obviously where he’s at. We are very optimistic about his full recovery down the line. We are going to, however, remain realistic about our expectations moving forward for the next four months, getting from May 9 to Sept. 9.”

Peterson said he doesn’t feel pain in the knee anymore and only remembers one day throughout his rehab where he felt the need to step back. Now, he said he feels more flexibility in the knee and can feel the scar tissue beginning to break up.

Sugarman said there are virtually no limitations for Peterson and that the past three weeks have been about testing all the movements. Peterson wears a brace on the knee for side-to-side movement but is allowed to take the brace off for straight-line running. Sugarman said at this point the brace is more for precautionary measures and that he doesn’t believe Peterson would need the brace later this year when he returns to the field.

“It’s just to protect him,” Sugarman said. “Will he get hurt if he doesn’t have the brace on out here? Very, very unlikely. And then once we get to the game, I’ve never really had a guy still wear the brace. I’d love it if he did, but you know there’s no way. These guys usually throw the brace at me at some point because they just hate it.”

The biggest obstacle remaining is the mental hurdle Peterson must overcome and trusting the stability and strength in the knee. He estimated he’s more than 50 percent healthy when it comes to cutting and explosiveness.

“It’s light years from where it was four months ago,” Peterson said. “I’m definitely getting more confident, just being able to get back to doing some of the things that I’m used to doing, as far as cutting and being more explosive. There’s confidence that I can continue to step up my rehab. Eric and his staff are doing a good job keeping me level, because right now, I get to the point where I want to do more than I need to be doing. And those guys know my limit and they push me to it.”

Holding back the hard-working Peterson was one of the key aspects of the rehab, not letting the 27-year-old overextend himself and risk complications. Peterson didn’t want to be denied in reaching his goal of being ready for the season’s first game. Though he hasn’t resumed football activities yet, he says he doesn’t expect to be limited by the time the season opens. The workhorse back, who last year signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension, said he will be ready for his usual workload.

Even for Peterson, it would be a stunning return after being hurt Dec. 24 in game against the Redskins, when he took a direct hit to the side of the knee while it was planted in the Fed Ex Field turf.

“People can say what they want to say, I’ve got my goals,” Peterson said. “My whole life I’ve been setting my goals and pushing forward. I’ve been successful with doing that. I’ve been smart, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been smart about the process and I’m four months out.”

Which puts Peterson right in line for his planned September return.

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