By Joseph Gunther
Adrian Peterson, RB #28
Hometown: Palestine, TX
Experience: 6 years
Peterson is a four-time Pro Bowler, 2008 FedEx Ground Player of the Year, 2007 Offensive and NFL Rookie of the Year, three time All-Pro team member and NFL single game rushing record holder, but in 2012, he is in the midst of the best season of his NFL career.
He is just 314 yards short of his career best mark of 1,760 set in 2008, and 658 yards short of breaking the NFL’s single season rushing record with four games left to play in the season.
If he gets 20 carries and records his average per rush over the final four games, he would fall about 160 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s 1984 mark. However, his rushing average has gone up to nearly 8.1 yards per carry.
Peterson is having an MVP-caliber season. There is not a player in the game that has elevated his team more than Peterson has for the Vikings, but there have been only three running backs to win the award and no one since 1973 has won it while playing for a team that did not make the playoffs.
Prior to the Week 12 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Tribune wrote an article detailing why Peterson is having such an outstanding season. The article credits four things for the improved Peterson: an altered running style, the Vikings use of him differently, an improved offensive line and a more complete game.
Sunday, Peterson enhanced his MVP candidacy with 210 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown against division-rival Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. He nearly single-handedly won the game for the Vikings, but two poorly thrown passes that were intercepted and a defense that could not get off the field in the second half led to a 23-14 Packer victory. However, Peterson placed more blame on himself than his teammates after the game.
“If I’m just a second more patient I take that to the crib,” Peterson said. “It’s a 94-yard run. I look back on that and say, ‘That could have changed the game.’ The long run to the left (that went for 48 yards), being able to step out of that tackle and take that to the end zone. Those are the things that come to my mind. See what I can do better.”
His sincere self-analysis was noticed by Leslie Frazier.
“I’m just extremely proud of his attitude and his approach,” the head coach said. “He … wants to win as (bad as) anybody and that is the only accomplishment that he is concerned about. He’s disappointed by the fact that we didn’t win.
“The fact that he ran for 210 — that’s important, but it’s not as important to him as the fact that we didn’t win the game. That’s the beauty of Adrian Peterson. He’s the total team guy. He just wants to win, and it’s just disappointing that we couldn’t win this game when he had such a great day in this environment. You want to see him celebrate, and it’s hard to celebrate after (Sunday)’s loss.”
What makes Peterson’s season even more impressive is that he is three weeks shy of a full year removed from a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. “I’m trying to stay as positive as I can,” Peterson said the following day.
Positivity and an incredible healing ability have rewarded the star running back. Famed sports surgeon Doctor James Andrews foretold Peterson’s amazingly quick recovery. Adrian’s father, Nelson, recalled a conversation Andrews had with him and Adrian’s mother, Bonita Jackson, in which the doctor said, “I can’t believe it. For this guy to have played as much football as he’s played his whole life, and not to have hardly any wear and tear, it’s incredible. I’ve never seen a football player, especially one who runs and cuts as much as he does, with a knee in that condition. It’s like a newborn baby.”
Peterson signed a contract extension last September that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2017 season. He stated his career goals on Twitter after signing the extension: “Can’t wait to get a ring and finish my career in Minn.”
He has done his part and now it’s time for the rest of the Vikings to help reach the big game.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Vikings news, see CBS Sports Minnesota.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.