It took Edgerrin James two seasons to play like the Edgerrin James of old after his ACL injury. Last season, Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL eight days after Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL. Adrian Peterson was at full strength in training camp and has played in every game this season, Mendenhall wasn’t ready to play until Week 5 of this season. The fact that Peterson leads the NFL in rushing is unfathomable. Adrian Peterson is a rare breed of human, that is if he is an actual human.
TSL: You tore your ACL and MCL in the final game of the season last year. Many thought you wouldn't play on time this season or even be full strength but you’re leading the league in rushing? How is this possible?
AP: Immediately after the injury happened, I had to get my mind right. I just took the injury for what it was. I had to tell myself what I was going to do. I knew it was going to be a long process, but I just kept my faith in God. Rehab was an uphill battle, but I just prayed and stayed faithful. You can’t just talk about it though, you have to be about it. I had to put in the work. When you put your faith in God you see how he blesses you.
TSL: Describe a typical day during your rehab process?
AP: Waking up early (laughs). The first thing I’d do in the morning was ride the stationary bike for about 20-30 minutes to get loose and build up my range of motion. Then, I’d do different exercises to strengthen my quad and hamstring because those muscles kind of shut down after my surgery. After that, I’d do more hands on stuff with a trainer like stretching drills to help strengthen the muscles. I did a lot of stimulation treatment. Of course there was a lot of icing and keeping my leg elevated. I’d rehab for about three hours everyday at the facility. After about two months, I could do more work like box jumps and wall squats.
I stayed on that damn bike too. I got sick of that thing. When I first started, the seat was at the highest level, because I really couldn’t bend my knee, but as time went on I was able to lower the seat. It was nice to see that progress.
My rehab didn’t stop at the training facility though. I did a lot of work at home too. I’d walk up the stairs as a workout. I’d use the stairs to do calf raises. When I’d be lying in bed, I’d be doing body weight leg lifts. Rehab was really around the clock. I was always conscious of it. The stuff I did outside of the facility really helped me recover faster.
TSL: What was the hardest thing about rehab?
AP: Being patient. I wanted to get ahead of myself and do so much. Some of the weights they had me lifting were light. I’d do it so easy, and I’d want them to give me more so I could speed up the process. I had to listen to them and not over work myself. Trying to get the patella tendon back at full strength was also one of the toughest parts of rehab.
TSL: What kept you motivated during rehab?
AP: My goal in life as far as football is concerned is to be the best to ever play the game. It was just me knowing that this was going to be a challenge. It was a challenge from God. The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.” That verse speaks so many volumes in my life and other people’s lives. I just took that verse to heart, and was like, let’s see if it’s true. All things through Christ means, all things, even an ACL injury.
I knew it was possible to comeback better than I was last year. I wasn’t just going to talk about it. I had to do my part. I attacked the rehab. It was tough, I had my ups and downs and I was mentally tired at times. I just had to overcome those things and push through it. Every day of rehab, I made sure I accomplished something each day and set my mind to being better than before.
TSL: How much of rehab was mental vs. physical?
AP: Man, it was 80 percent mental. I was tested so many times. The devil will try to creep in your head and tell you things to throw you off track and distract you. I just stayed faithful and focused.
TSL: The first day in full pads, were you nervous?
AP: Not really. I felt good. I was excited to get out there and get going. I was ready to roll bro. Once I got to training camp, I knew I was ready to go. People in the organization didn't know, but I know my body and what I’m capable of doing.
It was funny because people were doubting me. Even people in the organization, they didn’t have the faith that I had. I sensed it a little bit. While all of that was going on, I just had to tell myself, they’re not me. I know what I can do, and I was ready to go.
TSL: Your team is 6-4 right now, but you have two Bears and Packers twice and you also play the Texans. What is it going to take for you guys to make the playoffs?
AP: We have to continue to play consistent and balanced football. Our defense is playing well. We’ve got to just take it one game at a time and we can definitely make it if we do that.
TSL: Christian Ponder has been struggling of late. But you've still been able to rush for over 100 yards in four straight games. How are you having good games continually facing 8 men in the box?
AP: I’ve got to give the credit to the offensive line. They’ve been dedicated to establishing a good front and being aggressive. One of my goals coming into the season was to help my team win a championship. I just try to play to the best of my abilities every game.
TSL: What were some of your goals coming into this season?
AP: To be honest, I didn’t write anything down. I made it simple for myself. It started off with how hard I worked. My focus was coming back better than what I was last year. I told myself, if I can be better than what I was last year, everything else will come into place. I’m not worried about the yards, touchdowns, none of that. I’m just trying to control what I can control, which is how hard I play. If I play hard, everything else will take care of itself.
TSL: Has the injury made you appreciate the game more?
AP: Yeah, definitely. The ACL injury has ended people’s careers before. I wasn’t thinking that my career was over, but in that moment it was a huge reality check. I was able to sit back and think about a lot of stuff. It made me appreciate the game. You realize how much of a blessing it is to play in this league.
TSL: Who do you think should win Comeback Player of the Year, yourself or Peyton Manning?
AP: (laughs) Myself.
TSL: The number of quality running backs in the NFL is down, because of all of the passing and two back systems. What are your thoughts on the evolution of the passing game and the decline of the running game?
AP: It's becoming that way with teams going to the spread offenses more. If you have a running back out there that's dedicated to his craft, the position will stay alive. I’ll use myself for example. The way I approach the game and come ready to play, you’re going to have to give me the ball. If more guys took that approach, they’re going to have a positive impact on the game and your team is going to make sure you touch the ball. As running backs, if we make it a point to have an impact on the game that will keep us relevant and the position won’t go extinct.
TSL: What did you think of the OU vs. West Virginia game Saturday night?
AP: I only caught the first half. They looked pretty good though. Overall, OU has had a pretty good season. I didn’t like us losing at home twice. But we lost to the two best teams in the country. We’ve bounced back well and stayed resilient. Most teams would take their foot off the gas once they are out of the national championship race, but they’ve stayed focus. I’m proud of them for that.
TSL: The idea for your Halloween costume, where did you get the idea from?
AP: Me and my girl were talking about what we wanted to be. We knew the party was coming up. I wait ‘til the last minute to do everything. The party was that Monday and I decided on Monday and just said I’m going to be the Incredible Hulk. I had to go buy the wig, green paint all that stuff. It took about an hour and a half to get it all on too.
TSL: Favorite Thanksgiving food?
AP: It’s gotta be dressing. Yeah, dressing. Cranberry sauce too.