Why No. 23? Peterson wanted to be like Mike

Coming back from ACL and MCL surgery on his left knee, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson seems pretty certain he’ll return to being one of the best players in the NFL.

His desired jersey number switch this offseason proves just how much of a splash he expects to make.

Peterson wanted to switch from his familiar No. 28 to No. 23 before finding out it would cost him $1 million to make the change. Speaking on the “Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday, he shared why he wanted No. 23, a number he once wore while playing basketball growing up in high school and middle school.

“When you think about 23, you definitely think about the great Michael Jordan,” Peterson said of the former NBA star. “So, to me, it was like, ‘Hey, be like the Michael Jordan of football.’ “

Peterson decided against the switch after he heard how much it would cost him. Because of league merchandising rules, players must buy back all unsold gear if they want to switch numbers.

“Yeah, so 23, that’s a number I was considering,” Peterson said. “You know, it’s a cool number, but 28 sounds a lot better for a million dollars.”

Peterson will have to continue making his own mark in his familiar No. 28 when he returns from tearing the two knee ligaments in a late-season game at Washington. The four-time Pro Bowl selection said he believes he is ahead of a projected eight- to nine-month recovery schedule and that he still has his sights set on being ready for the first regular-season game next season.

Peterson had surgery on Dec. 30 by noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews. He has spent time in Minnesota and is following his rehabilitation plan at home in Houston. Peterson, second all-time in Vikings history in rushing yards, will begin running next week.

“I’m planning on just start running and testing it out on the 28th,” Peterson told Patrick. “So, I’ll be able to see. I’m not going to be out there running sprints, but to test it out and see how I feel to try and run on it. It will feel good to be able to do that for the first time.”

Peterson said he felt three pops when he was hit in the side of the knee by Redskins safety DeJon Gomes. Peterson said he knew right away he suffered the ACL tear and had to wait to see what else went wrong. An MRI revealed the two tears and some meniscus damage as well.

He had surgery less than a week later.

Peterson told Patrick he has been progressing well.

“So, I think right now I’m ahead of schedule, just being patient and not trying to overdo myself, and, hopefully, I’ll be able to meet that mark,” Peterson said of returning for the first game of 2012. “But, ultimately I’ve got to make sure I’m 100 percent before I get back out there. But it’s going good so far.”

Peterson was also asked by Patrick which direction Minnesota should go with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft.

“To be honest with you, we’re hurting in so many different areas, offensively and defensively, I don’t really feel like we can go wrong,” Peterson said.

When pressed by Patrick, who said he has USC left tackle Matt Kalil penciled in for the Vikings, Peterson at least offered a little insight.

“That’s the name that popped up in my mind,” Peterson said of Kalil. “That would definitely be good. But we’ll see. I’m sure the organization is going to make the best decision for us.”

Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said last week that the team would look at all options, including taking one of a few “blue-chippers,” trading the pick or, curiously, taking a quarterback if one were “too good to pass up.”

The Vikings selected Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick last year, and Peterson supports the young QB.

“Are we set at quarterback? I feel like we are,” Peterson told Patrick. “I feel like Christian Ponder got a year under his belt. He did a great job, and there’s always room for improvement in the NFL. I thought he got his feet wet, and I look for him to come in with the competition, and it’s his job to lose and to just show he’s taking steps forward. We’ll see how things go.”

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