When Adrian Peterson takes the field Sunday against the Houston Texans, it will be one day short of a year since he tore his ACL and MCL, an injury that would put most players' careers in jeopardy, but not Peterson.
Esteemed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who has performed surgeries on many of the world's top athletes, conducted Peterson's knee surgery. Andrews was amazed by what he saw. While Adrian laid on the operation table sedated, Andrews rushed to the observation room to tell his parents that it was the most phenomenal knee he has ever seen. Via Jeff Darlington of NFL.com:
"I can't believe it," Andrews told them, in a conversation recalled by Peterson's father, Nelson. "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."
Hours after surgery, when Adrian woke up, doctors rushed to his room to see what he was doing. They told him he should lay in bed and rest, but if he really wanted to get up, he would need crutches. Adrian respectfully ignored their requests, rose from his bed and put both feet on the ground. No crutches, no support, just his two feet hours after major knee surgery.
That's Adrian Peterson.
Now, All Day as he is known, is running through the NFL and on pace to rewrite the record books. With Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record in sight, let's take a step back and quantify the spectacular year Peterson is having.
Peterson is averaging six yards per rush, has recorded 200-plus yard games twice (Week 13 at Green Bay, Week 15 at St. Louis), eight consecutive games of at least 100 yards and nine total games of over 100 yards rushing.
The last eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards (164 yards/game over that stretch), the best eight-game rushing total by an individual in NFL history. Looking at the entire 2012 NFL season, only two other running backs have more than 1,313 rushing yards through all 14 games. (Washington's Alfred Morris has 1,322 yards this season, and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch has 1,379.)
Adrian has 909 rushing yards after contact this year. Closest to him? Tampa Bay's Doug Martin, the Muscle Hamster, has 572.
Peterson has seven runs of 50-plus yards, tied for the most in NFL history in a single season with Barry Sanders in 1997.
With 20 runs of 20 yards or more, Adrian is comfortably ahead of the next best, Buffalo's C.J. Spiller, who has run for 20-plus yards 11 times this year.
Adrian's long for the season is 82 yards, which he has done twice (at Seattle, at St. Louis).
Eric Dickerson ran for 2,105 yards in 1984 while playing for the L.A. Rams. As previously mentioned, Peterson sits at 1,813 yards with two games to play. He will have to average 147 yards against the Texans and Packers to break the record, a mark he has surpassed five of the last six weeks.
The Texans rush defense ranks fifth-best in the NFL, while the Packers rush defense, a unit that Peterson ran over to the tune of 210 yards a few weeks ago, ranks 14th in the NFL. It will be a tall order, but if anyone is capable of doing it, it's Peterson.
Through 14 games in his record-breaking season, Dickerson rushed for 1,792 yards, meaning Peterson is ahead of Dickerson's record-setting pace by 20 yards, to be exact.
Peterson already owns the team record and currently leads the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,023, more than 350 yards than the next highest player (Calvin Johnson has 1,667).
With 2,243 rushing yards as a team, the Vikings rank eighth in team history and are 391 rushing yards away from setting the franchise record. With No. 28 on their side, 391 more yards is well within reach for the Vikes.
Averaging 160.2 rushing yards a game, the Vikings ground attack currently ranks fourth in the NFL trailing only Seattle, San Francisco and Washington with a league-best 164.8 rushing yards per contest.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic in regards to Adrian's record-chasing season doesn't even include Peterson. The Christian Ponder-led Vikings passing offense currently ranks dead last in the NFL. Averaging 168 yards a game through the air, ranking 32nd in the NFL, opposing defenses have nothing to fear when it comes to the Vikings' vertical game.
Talented running backs draw respect from opposing defenses and require an eighth man to be dropped down in the box. Combine the Vikings' pathetic passing attack and Adrian Peterson's remarkable abilities, defenses facing Minnesota have been putting nine and even 10 men in the box in recent weeks. That's right, 10 men in the box, and Peterson still gashed St. Louis for over 212 yards. What Peterson is doing is absolutely remarkable, but it should also be noted he has the benefit of playing behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
The best thing the Vikings can do this offseason is sign/draft a talented receiver. No doubt, not too many receivers are as explosive as Minnesota's Percy Harvin, but when 2012 is all said and done, Harvin will have missed eight games and has proven he cannot stay healthy for an entire NFL season.
The Vikings need to treat Harvin as a luxury and must find that reliable receiver who can strike a little more fear in opponents' eyes than Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson.
Through the first 14 weeks, Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards than 24 NFL teams, a major reason why he is well on his way to picking up a league-best fourth FedEx Ground Player of the Week award and potentially bringing home the Comeback Player of the Year Award and league MVP next month.
Sure, Peterson is fast, strong and explosive. Many NFL running backs are. What separates Peterson is his vision and lateral quickness. The next two weeks, when you watch Peterson chase the record, take note of his allusive lateral jump cuts and count how many times he misses the hole. I'll tell you right now; you won't be counting much.