Nationals

Vikings still wowed by Peterson's rapid recovery

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Vikings still wowed by Peterson's rapid recovery

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Most days, Adrian Peterson went through rehab drills looking as if he were never injured.

No one could've foreseen the rapid recovery Peterson has made since that bionic left knee of his was severely damaged near the end of a lost 2011 season for Minnesota. No one could have predicted these weekly gallops down the field and through the NFL record book.

With two games to go, Peterson needs 294 yards to break Eric Dickerson's all-time single-season rushing record. He is 188 yards from becoming the seventh player in league history to reach 2,000 yards in one year.

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Dec. 24, 2011:

The Vikings were playing at Washington the day before Christmas, a meaningless matchup between teams well out of postseason contention. The end of a routine 3-yard run early in the third quarter by Peterson, the throwback thoroughbred the Vikings have hitched their franchise to in a league now dominated by the forward pass, ended with excruciating pain.

Redskins safety DeJon Gomes dived at his lower left leg to take him down, tearing Peterson's anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the process. Peterson, lying face down on the grass, knew immediately ``something bad'' had happened. By the time head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and team physician Dr. Joel Boyd raced over from the sideline, Peterson was screaming, ``Why me? Why me?''

Sugarman and Boyd performed the Lachman test, where the leg is pushed and wiggled to gauge the stability of the ACL.

``It was just gone,'' Sugarman said. ``So now your worst nightmare is confirmed.''

By the time the game was over, Peterson's attitude had already turned. His knee in a brace, sitting in the training room, he asked Sugarman, ``Hey, what do we do next? Where do we start? How do we get better?''

``His grieving was very short-lived,'' Sugarman said.

The rehabilitation of one of the best running backs in NFL history began.

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The winter:

The first three months of the reconstructive knee surgery recovery are always the hardest, and even for Peterson this was no different. The mornings were dark and cold. Most of his teammates were gone. There were occasional text messages Sugarman had to send to encourage Peterson not to let up. The swelling had to subside first, before he could start the process of restoring his range of motion. The pain from both the incision and the bone that had to be broken to allow the ligament to be replaced was intense. But as soon as Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 30, Peterson was ready.

``I had in my mind from the moment I got out of surgery that I was going to be back, that I was going to be good and healthy,'' Peterson said.

In three weeks, he was walking. After six weeks, he began to jog in the pool. At eight weeks, he was sprinting, with the jets turned on for resistance. Then, 10 weeks after the operation, he ran on hard ground for the first time. Peterson and Sugarman were the only people on the indoor field at Winter Park that day.

``The first time I have a guy run after an ACL, they look like they have marbles in their shoe,'' Sugarman said. ``He probably had done it on his own without telling me before that, I would guess. But the guy took off and ran across the field like, `Whoa! He looks totally normal.' This isn't supposed to happen. So that was awesome.''

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The spring and summer:

On the first day of the team's conditioning program in late April, the players lined up for sprints. Peterson was working with Sugarman on the side when he saw what was going on. Granted permission to participate, Peterson jumped in line with the rest of the runners. His exhausted teammates wore expressions of disbelief.

``He finished in first four different times,'' head coach Leslie Frazier said.

Peterson also spent time at his offseason home in Houston, where he worked with physical therapist Russ Paine at the Memorial Herrmann Sports Medicine Institute. Paine picked up where Sugarman and his staff left off.

When Peterson showed up for his sessions at the clinic, the other athletes rehabbing there stared in amazement as he sprinted at the top speed levels of the treadmill. When he lined himself up at the leg press machine, he asked that the prescribed weight be doubled.

``I really wasn't playing around. I was on a mission,'' he said.

After 14 weeks, the drills advanced. Sugarman rolled a soccer ball as Peterson shuffled from side to side in a sand pit, trying to catch it like a goalie and throw it back in the same motion. He ran tight circles around hula hoops on the turf. He sprinted forward as Sugarman held him back with a bungee cord. Sometimes, for fun, they chased each other around the training room on stools with wheels so Peterson could strengthen his hamstring muscles. Or they'd stand on small red discs and toss a ball back and forth.

``He was terrible at it. He just hates to lose at anything,'' Sugarman said. ``So it's great when I can beat him at something.''

Peterson started training camp in Mankato, Minn., on the physically unable to perform list. His protest unsuccessful, he realized the importance of taking the process slowly. Those precious last few degrees of flexion in the knee took several months to return. The cutting, stopping and restarting he has to do for his job required nothing less than the full explosive ability of the joint. The muscles around the knee that atrophied after the surgery needed to be recalibrated, with quadriceps, hamstrings and calves in the proper strength proportion to one another.

Peterson began to be integrated into practice, though, with fans and coaches holding their breaths,

``He just dominated the rehab. It was ridiculous,'' Sugarman said.

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The opener:

Peterson was in the backfield on Sept. 9 as he planned all along, and he ran like he never left, carrying the ball 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime victory over Jacksonville. He got the game ball afterward, which he gratefully passed on to Sugarman.

The ligament was as strong as ever, as good as new, but that didn't mean the Vikings weren't still nervous, wondering how Peterson would perform.

``I don't really worry anymore. But the first part of the season I was worried sick,'' Sugarman said.

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The rest of the season:

Peterson felt right after the Sept. 23 win over San Francisco, when he woke up the morning after feeling the usual post-game soreness. He truly began to take off on Oct. 21, when he hit the 150-yard mark in beating Arizona. He's passed the 170-yard mark in four of the last six games, twice surpassing 200 yards.

``He was never going to let this injury be an excuse for him not to be at the level he was at, and I think all the people saying he couldn't do it gave him more drive,'' defensive end Jared Allen said. ``That's the competitor in him, and that's why we love him here.''

Peterson jumped in the cold tub to recover after Sunday's game at St. Louis. He's still been doing stretching and strengthening exercises on his left leg. Other than that, there's nary a sign of his injury left.

Sugarman has received all kinds of correspondence from coaches and competitors in all levels of athletics, wondering what their secret was. But Peterson hasn't really rewritten the ACL rehab manual. He's just added another remarkable chapter to his exceptional career.

``His ability to heal is probably different than mine or yours. His work ethic. His determination. His faith. He just has all these factors that, when put together, allowed him to accomplish what he has almost a year out from this terrible injury,'' Sugarman said.

``I don't think it's quite fair for everyone who tears their ACL moving forward to compare themselves to Adrian Peterson. They're setting themselves up for, in most cases, an unrealistic expectation.''

Peterson, who is 27, has stated his desire to break Emmitt Smith's record for career rushing. He'd have to play a long time to do that. But after his performance this year, that mark is just as achievable for him as the rest.

``It just depends on how long God blesses me to play,'' he said. ``I might go far and play `til I'm 40. I don't know.''

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Max Scherzer, Nationals undone by little things in St. Louis

Max Scherzer, Nationals undone by little things in St. Louis

Wednesday’s question around Max Scherzer centered on which version of the right-hander would do the pitching. Would it be the one from two starts ago who looked like the pitcher everyone was so accustomed to seeing? Or the one from his last start, less sharp, fastball a tick down in velocity and life?

Scherzer threw a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball Wednesday. He was loose and sharp. His outing also probably handed the Cy Young Award to New York’s Jacob deGrom.

The issues were less his doing than his teammates. Scherzer’s final line, 6 ⅔ innings, seven hits, five earned runs, 11 strikeouts, no walks, bumped his ERA to 2.81. But, Juan Soto lost a fly ball in the sun which otherwise would have ended the seventh inning. Catch it, and here’s Scherzer’s line: seven innings pitched, five hits -- two of which were bloops -- two earned runs, no walks, 11 strikeouts. Scherzer would be directly responsible for not throwing a cutter in far enough against wonder boy Tommy Edman, who hit it for a home run in the third inning. Otherwise, stellar.

Instead, a single drove in a run after the Soto mistake. A Matt Wieters pinch-hit two-run homer drove Scherzer out of the game following the single. Hence, the bloated line in a high-profile game. The rise in ERA, the loss, the box score telling a partial fib, all those things strongly enhance what was already a strong case for deGrom. Scherzer could never makeup the workload gap in the race, but could hang around or lead in all the peripherals. Wednesday’s outing made that much more difficult. 

The Nationals also never found a way to a damn-busting hit. Asdrúbal Cabrera’s deep fly ball to right field was prevented from going over the fence by a leaping Dexter Fowler, a would-be three-run homer turned into another sigh against St. Louis. The Cardinals made plays, Washington did not. St. Louis wins two of three in a series against Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Scherzer as a result.

Washington holds a one-game lead for the top wild-card spot before play begins Wednesday night. Chicago hosts Cincinnati. Milwaukee hosts San Diego. Things are tight.

The Nationals don’t play Thursday. A three-game weekend series begins in Miami on Friday. A sweep resets Washington’s season. It would also make it 16-3 against Miami this year. Anyting less? Not great.

Washington will have a slight advantage -- in theory -- going forward because it has the dual benefit of a lead (however small) as well as a game in hand on Chicago and Milwaukee. Who will pitch that extra game? Joe Ross is injured. The recent rotation shuffling for the weekend -- Aníbal Sánchez on Friday, Strasburg on Saturday and Austin Voth bumped to Sunday -- means Erick Fedde or Jeremy Hellickson would handle the day game Tuesday in Nationals Park. 

The Nationals are 6-10 in the last two-plus weeks. They haven’t lost their postseason spot --yet. However, it’s slipping, tenuous and in doubt, and Wednesday afternoon didn’t help.

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The 2019 Redskins are looking for their first win on their absolute least favorite night

The 2019 Redskins are looking for their first win on their absolute least favorite night

The 2019 Redskins could really use a win in Week 3 against the Bears. Like, really badly.

Unfortunately, the Redskins have played badly on Monday night (which is when they'll square off with Chicago this time around) over the past decade. Like, really badly.

Since 2008, Washington is 2-15 on the primetime stage. Two. And. Fifteen. 

Their last victory on that particular weeknight came in October of 2014. Furthermore, they haven't won a home Monday Night Football appearance since December of 2012, a streak they'll look to end when Mitch Trubisky and Co. come to FedEx Field.

Overall, they've lost seven straight, meaning there are almost-five-year-olds strolling around this planet who have no idea what it's like to see the Burgundy and Gold be successful on that part of national TV. Those poor children.

"I don't give a damn when we play," Jonathan Allen told reporters after the team's MNF loss in New Orleans last year. "We can play [expletive] Tuesday afternoon. I'm still going to be the same as I am today, Sunday night, Sunday morning, Saturday, I don't give a damn."

That is absolutely the attitude to take. Sadly, while the players say they'll be the same no matter the day, the franchise's recent record certainly indicates they aren't the same (they are undefeated on Tuesday afternoon this decade, though).

Now, if you're looking for something promising to hold on to — which you should be, because these stats are legitimately absurd — the Redskins have beaten the Bears seven times in a row. The last time they didn't came in 2003.

So, which run will come to an end: the team's horrendous stretch on Monday night or their dominance of the Bears? Well, knowing their luck, they'll probably just tie, bringing both to an unsatisfying conclusion.

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