Counting Down the Top 5 Players in the NFC North: No. 3, Adrian Peterson
The third can only go to Adrian Peterson.
Yes, he ended up on Injured Reserve last season. Yes, he continues to rehab and hasn't carried a ball since last December.
However, even that rehab tells you all you need to know about the man some call 'Purple Jesus' or 'All Day'.
That he's ahead of schedule not only speaks to his drive and determination, but his will. Even for a high level athlete, whose body is normally in tremendous shape, it takes tremendous will to ramp up rehab like this.
It's hard to imagine what his thought process must have been like, though we've heard reports the first few weeks post-surgery were rough. Depression after a procedure isn't uncommon—especially for a man who uses his body like Peterson does.
He overcame it, got working and hasn't looked back and looks good enough to where the Vikings are posting rehab videos on their website.
In a league where most coaches won't cop to a player having a band-aid, we've seen footage of a franchise star working on his surgically repaired knee.
Now, you might say "that's all well and good AG, but you don't win the league by rehabbing."
This is true. So let's look at a guy who, despite missing four full games with a torn knee, still nearly ran for 1,000 yards and had 12 touchdowns.
Peterson will play his first game in...
He did this with an imploding veteran quarterback followed by a rookie throwing to one great wide receiver and a collection of 'JAGs'—'just another guy'.
While he hasn't approached that 1,700-plus mark he reached in 2008, he's been consistently above or around 1,300 yards every year. His yards per carry are always very good, and he can both break the long runs as well as fight for the tough yards.
Peterson is that rare back, a mixture of power, speed and athleticism which teams used to fall all over themselves to get and still work hard to guarantee themselves when it's within reach. (Case in point, the Browns moving up a spot to get Trent Richardson, who many have compared to Peterson).
Peterson may not be his old self when he returns, which might happen Week 1 or might happen Week 4.
However even 75 percent Peterson is better than 90 percent of the NFL—and 100 percent of the NFC North.
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