Vikingsâ€™ Peterson inching closer to 100 percent
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson is growing tired of the repeated questions about how close he is to 100 percent in his return from knee surgery, but Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers turned out to be a big step in Peterson's mind.
Peterson said three weeks ago he was about 95 percent in his recovery from the December surgery that repaired two torn ligaments in his left knee. Regaining his old explosiveness was the final step for the Minnesota Vikings' all-time leading rusher.
Sunday, Peterson got his biggest workload of the season, taking 25 carries for 86 yards against San Francisco's stout run defense and felt the increased work in a physical game was just what he needed.
"To be honest with you, I think the rust just got knocked off with San Fran," Peterson said Thursday. "The previous two weeks, I woke up on Monday and my body felt great, a little soreness in my knee. I woke up Monday after this game, and I felt like I played some football. I feel like the rust is knocked off now and that's what I needed. And I'll be ready to roll even better."
Peterson surprised many by returning for the season opener and rushing 17 times for 84 yards, a 4.9-yard average. Falling behind against Indianapolis took Peterson out of the game plan a bit the following week, when he had 16 carries, but he was a lot busier in Week 3. In his career, Peterson has averaged 19.3 carries per game.
Peterson's workload against the physical 49ers proved vital, as Minnesota stuck with the running game and eventually wore down the defense in a 24-13 victory. His second-to-last carry in the fourth quarter was a 20-yard run in which he got around the left edge.
Minnesota still wants to be cautious with its franchise back, and due to Peterson's early workload, Gerhart took the final eight rushing attempts by a running back, all coming in the final six minutes of the game.
"I think we still want to be smart," Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "What that number is, is debatable. But we want to be smart as the game goes along and really monitor how he's feeling and how he's responding. And also, what we see as we watch the game develop."
Peterson continues his improvement and knows he's not quite all the way back yet. He could be 95 percent, 97 percent, but he's not speculating right now.
"I'm feeling good," Peterson said. "Trust me, I'm going to let you guys know when I'm 100 percent. I'll come in and that will be the first thing I say. But I'm feeling good each week with the wear and tear I'm getting during the game. I'm able to recover the first couple days of the week and feeling stronger each time. I'm in a good place."
Peterson is 12th in the NFL with 230 rushing yards and has averaged four yards per carry, well below his 4.77-yard career average. He keeps working to improve the strength in his left leg and increase the explosiveness he was known for making it to four Pro Bowls.
He doesn't believe any one play will determine if he's 100 percent, saying it won't be a 70-yard run that signals whether he is all the way back from surgery.
"It's just day-to-day practice, just me knowing my body and knowing when I look in the mirror, ‘OK, my right leg is obviously bigger than my left,' " Peterson said. "I know it's not as strong, just as far as different things I do. So, that's when I'll be able to tell, when I won't be able to tell the difference between the strength of both legs."
Opponents are having a hard time telling. With Minnesota traveling to Detroit this week, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he doesn't see much difference from the Peterson of old who has run for 892 yards and eight touchdowns in nine career games between the two teams. Peterson has averaged 5.28 yards per carry in his career against Detroit.
"I'm going to disagree that he's not the same guy because if he's not 100 percent, he's 98 or 99," Schwartz said. "I think he looks very good. If he was playing now, and we didn't know anything about a knee injury or he had never had one, I don't know if there's a whole lot of difference in his game. He looks quick, I think he looks strong, he's running tough, he can break the ball anywhere, he's a big back. He can challenge all points of your defense, the parameter, the inside, cutback all those different things. We have a lot of respect for him."
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