EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson’s fairytale season just gained a final plot twist.
The Minnesota Vikings announced Peterson, the NFL’s MVP after rushing for the second-highest, single-season total in league history, had surgery Thursday for a sports hernia. Peterson dealt with an abdominal injury during the final few weeks of a season in which he finished with 2,097 rushing yards in his comeback from major knee surgery.
Now, after Peterson finished eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record, it’s easy to wonder whether he would have broken that record if not for the injury.
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Josina Anderson of ESPN reported Thursday that Peterson told her the injury occurred in the Vikings’ Week 10 game at home against Detroit, the fourth of eight consecutive 100-plus-yard rushing games Peterson posted.
“I didn’t know the extent I was hurt then,” Peterson told Anderson, who tweeted quotes from her interaction. “I just remember getting twisted up pretty bad in an awkward position. My jersey never moves like that. I don’t know if it was from a tackle or from me pulling away from someone. I just remember thinking when I saw my jersey like that, that I must’ve gotten twisted up pretty bad. That next day I felt very uncomfortable in my groin and abdominal area. I thought to myself I’ll just wait until I recover, but I never did.”
Peterson, who was coming back from tears to the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, played every game in 2012 after surgery on Dec. 30, 2011. He was listed on Minnesota’s injury report the first two weeks of the season because of the knee. He showed up on the injury report in Week 6 with an ankle injury and was listed the same way until Week 13, when he was listed with a shoulder injury. He was first listed with an abdominal injury on the Week 15 injury report and remained that way the rest of the season.
Peterson told Anderson that after the team’s bye in Week 11 he was a limited participant in practices though he was listed as full participant until he showed up on the report with the abdominal injury. Over the final four weeks, including the playoffs, Peterson was listed as a full participant just once and was held out six times.
“After the bye week, I didn’t truly practice not a week after that until the end of the season,” Peterson told Anderson. “The only time I did do anything was pretty much on Fridays when I would just do a couple carries or so. Everybody knows that is our short day. I was getting rehab during this process. I knew I wasn’t really practicing at all. I wasn’t able to lift because of the strain that it would put on those muscles on an upper or lower body workout. That was too much.
“It was mind over matter. It was just about doing what I had to do to push myself every week. My body was sore from the game and the sports hernia every Monday, so I did what I had to do to recover and get my body right. I just played through the pain. I ran on adrenaline.”
After showing up on the injury report with the abdominal injury, Peterson ran for 212 yards in what amounted to a must-win game for the Vikings, who earned the final wild-card spot with a 10-6 record. In Week 16, Peterson ceded carries to backup Toby Gerhart late in a 23-6 win at Houston and said he felt he was slowed by injuries and the team was better served with Gerhart in the game. Peterson finished with 25 carries for 86 yards in the only game over the final 10 regular-season weeks he was held under 100 yards.
“That was the first time that I really doubted myself and questioned whether I would be able to continue the season,” Peterson told Anderson. “The pain was a 10 on a scale of 10. Put it like this, I developed a new respect for (Green Bay receiver) Greg Jennings who had the same type of injury. Initially I thought Greg was tripping and that he needed to be playing, but when I got it I was like I understand, bro. This is nothing to fool with.”
Peterson reportedly received pain-relieving injections, the first before playing the Packers in the regular-season finale when he ran for 199 yards to lead Minnesota into the playoffs with the win.
“I never treated the pain until I had to go get a cortisone shot in the pelvic area,” Peterson told Anderson. “I had swelling and inflammation that had built up. There was a lot of fluid that was causing me pain.”
Peterson was ready for 16 games less than a year after knee surgery. Apparently a sports hernia – an injury that sidelines most athletes rather quickly — wasn’t enough to even slow him for two months worth of action. He’s left to think what might have been when it comes to his record-breaking season.
“It definitely impacted my play,” Peterson told Anderson. “I wasn’t 100 percent, but I wanted to win a championship. I wasn’t going to stop or quit. I made a decision to keep going. I don’t want to make it seem like the sports hernia made me miss it, I could have done it with the injury. All I can say is that I would have had better performances.”
Peterson’s surgery was performed by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia, the nation’s foremost sports hernia repair surgeon. The Vikings said the surgery was performed to repair his abdominal core muscle.
“We expect a speedy recovery with no long-term concerns,” the team said in a release Thursday, which is not a surprise because recovery time after this surgery is usually four to six weeks. The fact Peterson was able to play so well while dealing with the injury, however, just adds more nuance to an amazing season.