Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson vows to be the best to ever play the game

ADRIAN PETERSON — During his time at Oklahoma, teammates saw Adrian Peterson's phenomenal work ethic and his freakish athletic skills. So it was no surprise to those former teammates to see Peterson come back from a torn ACL with a vengeance last Sunday.
by Michael Baldwin Published: September 15, 2012
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Now that he's made good on a vow to recover from a devastating Christmas Eve knee injury in time for the Vikings' opener, here's what else he's planning:

To run hard and well deep into his 30s.

To play so well the escalators in his new contract make it worth $100 million by 2017, by which time he'll have signed another big deal.

To leave football on his terms, which are these:

Adrian Peterson wants to be the best to ever play the game.

After last Sunday, do you doubt him?

Eight months after undergoing ACL surgery on his left knee, Peterson rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota's 26-23 win over Jacksonville.

“If it was any other person I might be floored,” said Dusty Dvoracek, a former University of Oklahoma teammate who himself had two ACL surgeries. “But Adrian is like no other player I've seen. He defies all the rules.”

Dvoracek, now a sports talk host for KREF-AM 1400 in Norman, called Peterson's comeback the story of Week 1 in the NFL, saying it was unfortunately overshadowed by Peyton Manning's return and the debut of Robert Griffin III.

“I was a little disappointed,” Peterson said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman. “I felt I could have done a little bit better. But since we got the win I wasn't too hard on myself.”

Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier intended to give Peterson “limited exposure” in the opener. The coach says he plans to limit his carries early this season, including Sunday when the Vikings play at Indianapolis.

“I feel I can handle my normal workload,” Peterson said. “But I understand their point of view, where they're coming from early in the season. They want to play it safe, go with their formula. I'll be ready to do my job when I'm out there.”

‘HE ONLY KNOWS ONE SPEED'

A former OU quarterback who admits to cheating on his handoff footwork to keep Peterson from running over him was awed by his ex-teammates' return.

“Just to be able to play that first game was really something,” said Paul Thompson. “But to turn it on the way he did was really remarkable.”

Remarkable, but not surprising. Dvoracek calls Peterson the best athlete at OU “from Day One when he was 18 years old.” Thompson calls him one of the NFL's toughest players.

“People have talked about him and Chris Johnson,” Thompson said. “I don't think it's close. I guarantee you any defender would rather go up against Chris Johnson or any other back than to take on Adrian Peterson.

“He's going to run through you. That's the way he practices. When we were in shorts and helmets defenders didn't get in his way because they knew he would put his head down and put it right through your chest. He only knows one speed.”

Peterson's bulldozer style increases risk of injury, although Peterson often dishes out more punishment then he absorbs. Yet coming off major knee surgery he has no plans to change it.

“I'll be even more aggressive,” Peterson said. “There aren't too many guys that like tackling me up high. They try to take my legs out. When those situations present themselves I'm going to lower my shoulder pads, make them think twice about going for my legs.

“There will be times I'm going to run out of bounds because there's nothing else to gain. But outside of that I'm going to play the same way I've always played the game.”

Injuries sidelined him twice at OU. After finishing as a Heisman Trophy runner-up as a freshman, he was slowed by a high ankle sprain as a sophomore. As a junior he came back from a broken collarbone in time to play against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Yet Peterson carried the tag “injury prone” into the 2007 NFL Draft. That's one theory why he slipped to Vikings and the No. 7 overall pick.

But in the NFL, Peterson has been durable. Before last season Peterson had missed only three games his first four pro seasons, two his rookie year with a sprained knee and one in 2010 with a bruised thigh. He played in all 16 games in 2008 and 2009.

“A.D. is always going to be 1,000 miles an hour all the time,” said former OU fullback J.D. Runnels. “In a walk-through he's joggin. His half speed is everybody else's three-quarter speed. At full speed he's going faster than everybody.

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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