Adrian Peterson’s coronation as King of the ACL Recovery occurred Saturday night in New Orleans when he was named the 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player. His 2,097 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings after tearing the ACL, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee on Christmas Eve 2011 changed widely-held perceptions about the extent and timing of football-related limitations following knee ligament reconstruction surgery.
Peterson’s recovery and on-field success in 2012 were so impactful that his name constantly arises in conversations about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s recovery from surgery to revise the reconstruction of the ACL and repair the torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.
Remember that coach Mike Shanahan mentioned Peterson’s recovery, unsolicited, in his news conference the day after Griffin was hurt in Washington’s playoff loss to Seattle.
Griffin was in the audience at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on Saturday as Peterson accepted his MVP award. Griffin, only 24 days removed from surgery, is determined to duplicate Peterson’s feat of being ready for Week 1 of the regular season following his surgery.
Peterson had not spoken to Griffin by the time Peterson met with reporters Saturday night, but he said he planned to share with Griffin certain elements he believes enabled such a successful recovery.
“I definitely plan on reaching out to him,” Peterson said. “There’s not much you can really do after the surgery. There are a couple different [electronic muscle stimulator] units, and definitely ice it. You’ve got to ice it and keep the swelling down. That helps with the muscle…because fluid shuts muscles down. So you’ve got to make sure you ice it, keep the stim on it and try to take advantage of the little things you can do: quad and hamstring exercises until he’s able to get on the bike and so forth.”
Griffin knows that, of course, having experienced an ACL rehabilitation in 2009-10. Peterson also emphasized the importance of mental toughness, a trait Griffin is known for.
“It’s really all about how you approach the recovery,” Peterson said. “It’s how you look at your circumstance and then it’s about how you go after it. There are a lot of guys that really talk about coming back and recovering from a serious injury but don’t really put the work in to do it.
“My advice would be just don’t talk about it, be about it. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity that you have during that recovery process to get stronger, get faster and just gain more confidence. But really approach it like you approach the game.”
Peterson acknowledged that each person’s body is different – which is essential for Griffin’s supporters to remember as he hopes to replicate Peterson’s recovery – but Peterson’s positive attitude and tenacious mentality can be duplicated.
“Mentally, just believing that you’re going to come back and you’re going go be better, that’s a huge part of it,” Peterson said. “That sounds cliché. That sounds simple, but you have to believe it in order to accomplish it. You’ve really got to put the work in behind it as well.”
Obviously, recovering from ACL surgery involves more than a mindset, as former Redskins running back Tim Hightower attested to last month. That won’t stop people, though, from using Peterson as a benchmark for Griffin’s recovery.
“Adrian Peterson has set no limits on coming back from an ACL,” Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said at the NFL Honors show Saturday. Tillman, 31, has known Griffin, 22, since Griffin was in sixth grade. They both attended Copperas Cove High School in Copperas Cove, Texas.
“When I hear ACL, I think of Adrian Peterson and the phenomenal year he had,” Tillman continued. “[Griffin] is young. He can come back and have a better sophomore season than his rookie year.”
With his next breath, though, Tillman cautioned against forcing Peterson’s timetable on Griffin.
“This is your franchise quarterback,” he said. “You know what he can do. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody else. Come back slow, take it easy and come back when you’re ready.”