Adrian Peterson's inspiration continues to positively affect kids in need. This time, he responded…
Peterson ‘all in' on full-throttle offseason
He intends to take the lessons he learned from the grueling process of coming back from what many feared might be a career-altering or career-ending injury and pay it forward. In his sixth NFL season, when many were discounting his return or saying he was being too stubborn when he set lofty goals to be back by the regular season opener, Peterson put in the best season of his illustrious career and, despite being held back early in the season, came just nine yards short of the all-time single-season rushing record. In many ways, as Peterson reflected on his 2012 season Monday at Winter Park, he found a lot of positives from a very negative experience and plans to continue to reap the rewards of the blood, sweat, tears and hard work he put in during the last offseason.
"Last year was kind of a blessing in disguise for me because I had to start extremely early working out and I saw what the results were," Peterson said. "I'm all in. I'm about to grind this offseason and come back and be better than I was this year."
One of the unexpected benefits from his rehab was that Peterson gave hope to many – whether they're football players or people facing adversity in their own lives. He became a role model for those seeking a reason not to give up, even if the odds are against them. He led by example as a player and a human being and he is gratified that he has seen the impact his recovery has on others.
"In my mind sometimes, I understand that I help inspire people," Peterson said. "I've been calm and nonchalant about the recovery process because my faith is that strong. I don't really analyze to see how much I really do affect people, but I was able to see it and hear it from different guys, even some of the guys on injured reserve that are working to get back how I've been able to inspire them. That's what it's all about."
Peterson was never lazy in the offseason, but the intensity of his workouts were so much above and beyond what he had ever had to do in the past that he is going into this offseason expecting to take on the same style of offseason workout regimen. And, he wants to bring that nose-to-the-grindstone to as many of his teammates willing to take on the challenge.
"Having that experience last year, I'm going into the offseason with that same mindset – I'm going to come back better than I was before," Peterson said. "I'm reaching out to a lot of guys this offseason to come to Houston or Arizona, wherever I have to go, to get a group together and start doing this thing together."
Peterson turned a lot of heads when he showed up at minicamp, still unable to play or practice, and challenged his teammates to a race up the steep hill that hugs the sideline of the Vikings outdoor practice field at Winter Park. Prior to that, the talk of Peterson being ahead in the rehab process was more buzz and discussion. When he beat his teammates up that hill, it became tangible. His teammates already respected Peterson, but that challenge ratcheted that up markedly and one of the reasons he wants as many of his teammates as possible to run his offseason gauntlet.
"That's why I want to get those guys around – to push them to the limit," Peterson said. "I can give a good example. I came out here and raced against those guys four or five months after the surgery and I was beating those guys, I'm sure some of them were (saying) ‘Wow. We've been working out, we haven't had surgery and he's coming out here and beating us.' To be able to huddle those guys around and see how much I'm into it – the same way I play out there with my heart and soul, I work out the same way. To be able to get those around, me be able to push them and we push each other, I think it's going to be something special for us."
Peterson wasn't always the best patient. Back at training camp, he recalled wanting to strangle Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman more than once when he would alternately push him hard to fight through the pain and then, when A.P. wanted to cut loose, pull on the leash and hold him back. He knows his teammates won't always be happy with his complete buy-in work ethic and the level of sweat he will be looking for, but he believes he can help bring on a change in those teammates who want to try his workout program and accept his challenge. In the end, he thinks it will make a better team.
"Hopefully, it will build that mental toughness," Peterson said. "So many times during the offseason, some of the guys that worked out with me wanted to strangle me because I was calling them out – ‘Go harder, go harder.' But 10 minutes after you're working out and come back down and that burn don't last that long. You've got to learn to love the burn. Getting through it mentally is a grind, but it makes you tough physically and mentally."
How many Vikings take Peterson up on his challenge is up to debate, but one thing is certain. He has become a leader without taking a snap or winning a game. His work ethic and his refusal to accept bad news or setbacks is legendary now. Across the locker room, Jared Allen jokingly made the comment that he is looking for 2,000 sacks next season after he has surgery on his shoulder. While meant tongue in cheek, it was an acknowledgement that anything is possible and that Peterson has been an inspiration to his teammates.
"That's what I'm talking about," Peterson said. "He wasn't talking about 2,000 sacks last year, was he? Or the year before. Those types of things mean a lot."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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