On Aug. 12, a few days before training camp broke, Peterson was let out of the chute for his first practice. And even without testing himself in preseason action, he was, as he had always promised he would be, in the starting lineup Sept. 9 for the opener against Jacksonville.
As the Vikings offensive starters were announced, Peterson stood in the tunnel at Mall of America Field and flashed back to the hospital and the surgery and the moments he began envisioning his return.
"It had always seemed so far away," he says.
Now, it had arrived.
"Literally being at the end of that tunnel," Peterson says, "seeing the lights, seeing the fans, hearing it get louder and seeing my guys out there waiting for me to run through, it was like redemption."
Peterson ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns that day, breaking off a 20-yarder in overtime to spark the game-winning drive.
In truth, that could have been a triumphant exclamation point, Peterson’s recovery completed faster than anyone imagined.
A solid 1,000-yard season would have been universally applauded. But a return wasn’t all Peterson promised. He had also vowed to be better than before.
So he kept pushing, kept getting stronger, and before anyone knew it, he had begun a torrid stretch in which he smashed a team record with eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games — and still counting. During the surge, he has averaged 7.5 yards per carry and 164 yards per game, also tying an NFL single-season record with seven runs of longer than 50 yards.
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Adrian Peterson has been given respect.
Teammates and coaches have come to appreciate Peterson’s dominance through different vantage points. Defensive end Jared Allen, for example, has spent five seasons enjoying the show.
"It’s like, ‘When is he going to break the next one? Oh, there he goes,’" Allen says. "I always tell him he needs to rest up. Because if I was the offensive coordinator, he’d carry the ball 75 times a game. I mean, look what he’s doing. It’s amazing. I just want to see it. I’m a fan."