NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Adrian Peterson called it a blessing in disguise.
Strange way to describe career-threatening major knee surgery.
The Minnesota Vikings’ star came back better than ever, just missing Eric Dickerson’s longstanding rushing record and closing out the season with two of the top NFL awards from The Associated Press: Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.
As sort of an added bonus, he beat Peyton Manning for both of them Saturday night.
“My career could have easily been over, just like that,” the sensational running back said. “Oh man. The things I’ve been through throughout my lifetime has made me mentally tough.
” I’m kind of speechless. This is amazing, ” he said in accepting his awards, along with five others at the “2nd Annual NFL Honors” show on CBS saluting the NFL’s best players, performances and plays from the 2012 season. The awards are based on balloting from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL.
Manning’s own sensational recovery, from four neck surgeries, earned him Comeback Player honors.
“This injury was unlike any other,” said the only four-time league MVP. “There really was no bar or standard, there were no notes to copy. We were coming up with a rehab plan as we went.”
Before sitting out 2011, Manning had never missed a start in his first 13 seasons with Indianapolis. But he was released by the Colts last winter because of his neck issues, signed with Denver and guided the Broncos to the AFC’s best record, 13-3.
“Certainly you have double variables of coming off injury, not playing for over year and joining a new team. That certainly added a lot to my plate, so it was hard to really know what to expect,” Manning said. “I can’t tell you how grateful and thankful I am. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be playing the game of football we all love so much.”
Also honored were:
_Washington’s Robert Griffin III, who beat out a strong crop of quarterbacks for the top offensive rookie award.
_ Houston end J.J. Watt, who took Defensive Player of the Year, getting 49 of 50 votes.
_ Bruce Arians, the first interim coach to win Coach of the Year after leading Indianapolis to a 9-3 record while head man Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia. Arians became Arizona’s head coach last month.
_Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league’s leader in tackles with 164, who won the top defensive rookie award.