It was exactly one year ago today when the hearts of Minnesota Vikings fans everywhere collectively sank while watching a game at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.
It was Christmas Eve, and the Vikings were taking on the Washington Redskins in what was, essentially, a meaningless game. The Vikings were a 2-12 football team in a dogfight for the top overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft in what had been a disastrous season. The Redskins were 5-9 and well out of contention as well.
The Vikings and Redskins went into the locker room tied at 10, and on the first play of the third quarter, Adrian Peterson took a handoff from Christian Ponder and went up the middle for a gain of three yards. He was tackled by Redskins' safety DeJon Gomes. A rather non-descript play. . .
Except for the fact that Peterson didn't get up afterwards. Instead, he remained on the ground, clearly in pain, and needed to be helped off the field by the training staff. It came out after the game that Peterson had torn both the ACL and the MCL in his left knee as a result of the play.
A couple of days after the injury, the team announced a time table for Peterson's rehabilitation that would have him ready in eight or nine months. . .or, in enough time to be on the field for Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season. And everyone, collectively, thought that Certified Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman™ was out of his damn mind. No way could anybody come back from that devastating an injury in that level of time, not even an amazing athlete like Adrian Peterson. And if they could, they certainly wouldn't be the same caliber of player that they were prior to the injury.
If we were talking about mere mortals, then that might be true. But with Adrian Peterson, that's not what we're dealing with.
We've been over it time and time again in this space, but what Adrian Peterson has done over the past twelve months has been nothing short of remarkable. Not only has he come back, and not only has he played at a level that's on par with what we've seen from him in the past, but he's pretty much lapping the field when it comes to performance at the running back position in the National Football League.
Even losing his streak of consecutive 100-yard games with a 25-carry, 86-yard performance against the Houston Texans, he still has 1,898 yards on the season. That leaves him 102 yards from becoming the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and 208 yards from supplanting Eric Dickerson for the highest single-season rushing total in NFL history. It also leaves him 408 yards ahead of the NFL's second-leading rusher, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch.
Peterson has a significant amount of work to do to reach either of the two marks he's striving for going into Sunday's season finale at the Metrodome against the Green Bay Packers. It isn't going to be easy for him to get there. . .then again, it wasn't going to be easy for him to rehab and get back on the football field in time to play the entire 2012 NFL season, either, and he proved us wrong there.
The Minnesota Vikings have come a long way over these past 12 months as well, largely on the back of Peterson. Their 9-6 record means that they've a) tripled their win total from last season and b) won as many games as they did in 2010 and 2011 combined. Their most recent rookie class appears to be one of the better groups in recent Vikings history, and they're in a place that almost nobody. . .yours truly included. . .thought they would be in the final week of the 2012 NFL season.
That place is "relevance."
The Vikings control their own destiny on Sunday afternoon. . .and if they're going to answer the call of destiny, they're likely going to be led there by a man whose future we were questioning just one short year ago.