When Adrian Peterson tore his ACL on Christmas Eve last year he was written off. Most predicted the most prolific and dominant running back in the NFL would struggle to get back to the level he's accustomed to being at. Those sceptical had good reason to be. With Rehabilitation taking anywhere from 9 months to 18, players just don't come back the same player. Some alter their style of play to minimise risk of injuring it again. Others lose that sharpness that set them apart from other athletes. Some are mentally not able to overcome the injury, instead playing it safe to avoid any further distress. Not Peterson. From his first interview after sustaining the injury, Peterson had a determination in his voice. This wouldn't defeat him, targeting a Week 1 return and telling everyone that would listen he wouldn't miss a beat when he returned. Peterson has been a quick healer throughout his career, as demonstrated when he broke his Collarbone at Oklahoma which caused his slide to number 7 in the 2007 Draft. However, this target seemed impossible even for Peterson. Running Back is one of the most brutal positions to play in the National Football League. They carry the ball the most out of any player and nine times out of ten will get hit at the end of each play. It is widely perceived around the league that once a Running Back hits 30 he becomes replaceable. There's always younger, faster men coming through the draft who have less mileage and are deemed better options. Peterson has all the makings of being the exception to the rule. Held out of the pre-season games as a precaution, some doubted that Peterson was ready. Some thought coming back too soon could be a grave mistake. Leslie Frazier stated he would be limiting his carries during the first few games. The Vikings have always been heavy reliant on Peterson, with the jury still out on second year Quarterback Christian Ponder, you just knew it wouldn't be long before Peterson would be counted on to take this team on his shoulders once more. Not in even their wildest dreams did they expect this. The first game was a statement from Peterson that he was back better than ever. Not yet ready to do anything more than run between new left tackle Matt Kalil and right tackle Phil Loadholt, Peterson had 84 yards off 17 carries with 2 touchdowns in a win over the Jaguars. Peterson was hitting the holes with the ferocity we were used to seeing before the injury. While this was against the lowly Jaguars, it was an indication of Peterson's hard work during his rehabilitation. Weeks 2, 3 and 4 further demonstrated Peterson had returned to his former self. 60 yards against the Colts, 86 yards against the vicious 49ers and 102 against the Lions. The Vikings were one of the surprises of the season at 3-1 and now it was time for the stabilisers to come off their star running back. Since week 6 Peterson has absolutely blown up the Stat sheet. Demonstrating solid cuts, great vision and ruthless running power. He has amassed 1812 yards rushing with 11 Touchdowns through the first 14 games of the season. Those are incredible statistics for any Running Back, Peterson is no ordinary back. Coming back from an ACL injury to this level is unheard of, almost a miracle. Even more astonishing is he's done this while defences have keyed in on him, putting 8, 9 or sometimes 10 in the box and have put the pressure on the struggling Ponder. This has made no difference to Peterson, he has run over everybody and is showing no signs of slowing down. In a must-win game for the Vikings against the Rams, Peterson was electric, 212 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings are now in the Sixth seed in the Playoff race at 8-6, no mean feat in itself. Nobody around the league expected that. Even with Ponder's obvious limitations and Harvin's absence for the second half of the season, they are right in the hunt. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why. The teams playoff hopes will rest with Peterson as he goes for Eric Dickerson's all time rushing record whilst dragging the Vikings to a unexpected playoff appearance. Games don't come much tougher. First they go to the Texans, the a home game with the Packers. Whether they do it or not remains to be seen. The smart money says they won't, but nothing about the Vikings' season has gone to script. One thing is for certain, Peterson is back. He has proved to everybody what is achievable with dedication, hard work and commitment to being the best. Peterson is the best we have seen for some time. Whether he becomes the best ever remains to be seen. Who would bet against him? Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
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