It’s now been 54 days since Adrian Peterson completed one of the most remarkable running back seasons of all-time. For months, everyone around football marveled about how Peterson bounced back from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments to post 2,097 rushing yards, the second most prolific single-season output in NFL history. Peterson was rewarded for his efforts with the league MVP award. And if that wasn’t extraordinary enough, then it was learned earlier this month that Peterson played the final six games of the season with a painful sports hernia. That injury caused the Vikings to significantly cut back on his practice time. In December, for example, Peterson essentially only went through practice on Fridays. And yet in the Vikings’ five games in the season’s final month, Peterson totaled 861 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
This morning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier shared more details on Peterson’s injury and reiterated his amazement in the running back’s ability to not only play through pain but to continue producing at such a high level. Here is an excerpt from that exchange.
A year ago at this event, you were talking about the need to throttle Adrian back as he was trying to accelerate his recovery timetable and rehab workload. But after what he showed in recovering from an ACL, is something like sports hernia surgery simply like a hangnail for him?
“When he had that injury and we were monitoring in his practices – as you guys remember, we were holding him out And then he’d practice on Friday -- and then he’d go out and play the way he did on Sundays, it was just amazing. ACL? Sports hernia? And to play the way he played? So this surgery, it’s like a piece of cake after the ACL and what he was able to accomplish. But he’s unique. He’s very unique.”
When that injury first happened, did you internally wonder if his reps would have to be cut back in games? Because that lingered for a month-and-a-half?
“We did. There were times I’d be telling [running backs coach] James Saxon on the headset, ‘Watch him on this carry. See if we have to take him out.’ And I’d talk to Adrian on those Fridays when he would get in some practice time and say, ‘What do you think?’ And he’d say, ‘Coach, I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready.’ But I couldn’t always tell if he was going to be ready. And then you’d go through warm-ups in pregame and it was like, man, it looks like he’s going to be OK. But in the back of your mind you’re just wondering can he finish. And then he’d break a long run and you’re like, ‘He’s different.’”
So the only game where it held him back was Houston?
“That was probably the game that it bothered him the worst. That game. You probably saw him grabbing (the injury) in that ballgame. That’s when I remember telling our coaches, ‘That’s it for him.’ And we pulled him in that ballgame. That game was the worst.”
Were there other games where you noticed anything else with that?
“Yeah, there were other games where I’d look and I’d see him not quite where I thought he would be and we’d talk to him and just see what he felt and then he’d go back out and he’d finish and he’d play well.”
What specifically was his discomfort?
“He just had pain when he was raising the leg up. With the sports hernia, it’s like that. When you run or sprint, that’s where you’re going to get the catch [and the pain]. But, to our amazement, his ability to block out that part of it and still perform at the level that he performed at, it’s just amazing. Because it’s not an area where you’re going to be taking shots or anything like that. It’s just a matter of your tolerance.”
And you were comfortable he couldn’t do more damage to that? I’d imagine if it was a torn MCL or something like that, the approach would have been completely different?
“Yeah, completely different. Completely different. But we were always monitoring how he was doing, where he was, giving him treatment. He’d make progress. But the Houston game was probably the one game where he was really set back and there was a push to get him ready for the next game. I don’t remember who we played the next ballgame.”
It was the Packers. Regular season finale. 199 yards.
“Yeah. So to get him ready for that ballgame, we were concerned going into that ballgame how he was going to perform. And then … Incredible.”
After the season, were you concerned or talk to him at all. Because he went and played in the Pro Bowl?
“I know. That was something he had his heart set on and felt like he could protect himself. And the coaches over there, they did a good job, too. They didn’t stress him, so it worked out good. They knew. Mike McCarthy and his staff, they knew.”