Adrian Peterson is like every other American — he watches videos on the internet.
And he’s been on YouTube and seen men running sprints. These aren’t your average sprinters; they’re in the 40s and 50s. But these aren’t your average old guys either.
Peterson has seen them run 400 meters in 48 seconds.
That wouldn’t win an Olympic medal — or even get a spot on the American team these days — but for guys who are closer to retirement than high school, that is impressive.
“And it’s all because they put that work in,” Peterson said Wednesday during a conference call promoting a medical recovery device called Hyperice. “As long as you have the mindset to work and then you have what you need to be able to take care of the body, then you’re able.”
Which brings us to the 29-year-old running back.
Peterson isn’t a youngster anymore, not in the world of NFL tailbacks anyway. He stands on the precipice of his 30s, which is the unofficial benchmark for old at his position.
Only three running backs in their 30s got the bulk of the carries for their respective teams last season.
So, is the end of Peterson’s dominance near?
Or can he overcome age like he has injuries?
What Peterson has already done to fight off the ravages of a running back is downright amazing.
Remember the Texas A&M game his freshman season at Oklahoma? He dislocated his left shoulder in the first half, but with the Sooners struggling to keep national championship game hopes alive, he basically told the trainers that they were going to pop his shoulder back into place and that he was going to play.
They did, and so did he.
Peterson’s first play back was a third-and-2 late in the game. Get it, and the Sooners could milk the clock. Fall short, and the Aggies would have a shot at winning the game.
Peterson bullied his way to a 4-yard gain.
He’s come through lots more injuries since. A broken collarbone his junior season. A torn lateral collateral ligament his rookie season in Minneapolis. A pulled hamstring his second season.
Then, of course, came the ACL tear.
It happened late in the 2011 season, and everyone immediately wondered if he could ever be the same. Would he ever run as fast? Would he ever cut as well? And most of all, would he want to take contact like he always had, want to run guys over, want to be physically punishing?
Yes, yes and yes.
Peterson nearly broke the NFL’s single-season record for rushing yards the next season. It will forever stand as one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of the league.
Peterson has overcome injury because he has a relentless work ethic. Oh, he has a high pain tolerance, too, but he talked Wednesday about his workout regimen while coming back from that blown out knee and it was downright remarkable to hear.
“I can’t really express to you how hard I worked, how hard I grinded,” Peterson said. “After two months, I was working out twice a day.”
First, he went to the Vikings’ facility and rehabbed the knee for an hour or so, riding a stationary bike, lifting weights some and doing an extensive litany of stretching exercises. Then, there was an hour or more of upper-body workouts.
Then after lunch, Peterson would do another workout. This one was with his personal trainer, and it targeted flexibility, strength and range of motion in his lower body.
“I did that for months,” he said. “It was excruciating as far as the time commitment and the pain I had to endure.”
But the results were obvious. Peterson set the gold standard for returning from a torn ACL. Someone might do it as well, but no one will ever do it any better.
What a wondrous mix of work ethic, genetics and technology.
Will that cocktail slow the hands of time?
Our man Trent Shadid crunched some numbers, and he determined that the average age among running backs in the NFL last season was 25.7. Peterson’s college alma mater could play a running back this fall who’s closer to 25 than he is.
And when you look at the running backs in their 30s last season who got the bulk of their teams carries, you won’t see a bunch of superstars. Frank Gore is the best of the bunch, having his third consecutive 1,000-yard season for San Francisco last season as a 30-year-old. Steven Jackson has been a Pro Bowler but not since 2010. DeAngelo Williams has been a Pro Bowler, too, but not since 2009.
Those three guys are good — every player in the NFL is — but none rises to the level of Peterson. He has been a beast, and if you watched the Vikings at all last season, you know he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards for a team thin at the skill positions.
The Vikings signed flake-out Josh Freeman to play quarterback at one point, fercryinoutloud.
Still, Peterson, who had offseason groin surgery, chuckled during the conference call Wednesday when someone asked whether he’d thought about preserving his body by sharing carries with another back.
“Not at all,” he said.
That’s when Peterson brought up Brett Favre, Tony Richardson and Steve Hutchinson. Favre played quarterback in the NFL for 20 years, Richardson played fullback for 16, and Hutchinson played offensive line for 12. They played well into their 30s and beyond.
None of them, of course, were hard-running tailbacks.
Neither were those guys in their 40s and 50s running sprints that Peterson talked about watching on YouTube.
Peterson is a smart guy, so he knows that he is facing a huge challenge over these next few seasons. Still, whether in his own locker room or on YouTube, he has seen lots of evidence of just how much the human body can do — and we already know that his body can do amazing things.
Who’s to say Peterson can’t bowl over Father Time, too?
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.