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Updated: February 2nd, 2013 7:52pm
Zulgad: Another reminder that doubting Adrian Peterson was a mistake

Zulgad: Another reminder that doubting Adrian Peterson was a mistake

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by Judd Zulgad

A year ago at this time Adrian Peterson was coming off surgery in which two ligaments in his left knee were reconstructed. Yet, the Minnesota Vikings running back was telling anyone who would listen that he not only would return but he would be better than ever when he did.

Peterson's attitude was admirable, even if his expectations seemed unrealistic.

Peterson had torn his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and the conventional thinking went like this: The Vikings have to love Peterson's approach but they need to slow him down. If they are smart, Peterson won't play in the preseason or the first few regular-season games.

Turns out that Peterson was the smart one and the rest of us were foolish to use a line of thinking that assumed he was a mere mortal.

Peterson fell only 9 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, helped generate enough offense to take the Vikings from a 3-13 finish in 2011 to 10-6 and a playoff berth in 2012 and on Saturday night was named the Most Valuable Player in the NFL.

Fifty sportswriters vote for the award, which is given out by the Associated Press and recognized by the league as its official MVP. Peterson, who also collected Offensive Player of the Year honors, received the awards during an NFL bash thrown the night before the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Peterson beat out Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, marking only the third time a Vikings players has been voted MVP by the Associated Press. Defensive tackle Alan Page won the honor in 1971 and quarterback Fran Tarkenton got it in 1975.

Peterson was selected as the Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year award winner by the Maxwell Club last month. He also received that honor in 2008.

While there was plenty of debate throughout this season whether Peterson or Manning was more deserving of MVP honors, Peterson was the logical and obvious choice. Many semed to agree as Peterson received 30½ votes. got the other 19½ votes.

Manning returned after sitting out 2011 because of multiple neck surgeries. The Indianapolis Colts released Manning in March and he signed with the Broncos. Manning passed for 4,659 yards with 37 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and had a 105.8 passer rating as the Broncos won the AFC West with a 13-3 record.

That performance did land Manning Comeback Player of the Year honors and he was deserving considering he played after sustaining an injury that would have caused many to retire.

While the Broncos were substantially better with Manning, they also had made the playoffs in 2011 with Tim Tebow as their starter. Take Manning off this year's Broncos, give them a competent quarterback - not Tebow - and odds are good they would have been a playoff team.

Take Peterson off the Vikings roster, assume Toby Gerhart got the bulk of the carries, and then tell me how many games you think the Vikings would have won. Four, five, maybe six?

Anyway you want to define the term Most Valuable Player, Peterson qualifies as the choice. He was the Vikings' clear-cut star player and he helped get them into the playoffs.

If Peterson didn't have enough votes to win the award before the Vikings' regular-season finale on Dec. 30, then he certainly did after that game.

In a 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers that put the Vikings in the playoffs, Peterson rushed for 199 yards on 34 carries with a touchdown. Peterson had 10 games this season in which he rushed for more than 100 yards, including a stretch of eight in a row.

He rushed for more than 200 yards twice - the first time on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field and the second on Dec. 16 at St. Louis - and became only the seventh player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season.

Peterson finished with 2,097 yards rushing on 348 carries, giving him an average of 6 yards per attempt, and 12 touchdowns. His rushing total was the second best in NFL history behind Dickerson's 2,105 yards in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams.

Peterson would have broken Dickerson's mark but coach Leslie Frazier made sure his star rested a groin and abdomen injury with the Vikings comfortably ahead in a late-season win at Houston.

Perhaps most impressive about Peterson was the fact he did not change his style of running one bit after suffering the knee injury on Dec. 24, 2011 at Washington.

Peterson remained an incredibly punishing runner - he led the NFL in rushing yards after contact, gaining 336 more than runner-up Doug Martin of Tampa Bay - and, if anything, he became more patient in waiting for his blocks to develop before attempting to hit holes.

Common sense would say Peterson will struggle to top his 2012 output in 2013. But when it comes to Peterson, we learned a valuable lesson this season. Attempting to apply logic when it comes to this man's game makes little sense.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd