After 4 games, look out
At first, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will be tentative and not the superior back he once was. But after four games, look out. I would expect him to run wild in the last 12 games, especially when quarterback Christian Ponder proves he can't win a game by throwing the ball.
Peterson can return to form as one of the NFL's top running backs, it just won't happen overnight. He can easily gain 1,000 yards in 2012, but much will depend on how good the Vikings are. If they are always coming from behind, Peterson will get fewer chances to run the ball.
I would expect Peterson to be good in 2012, but he will have a monster year in 2013 if he has no injury setbacks.
Not if, but when
The question is not if Adrian Peterson will return to being a dominant back. The question is when Adrian Peterson will return to being a dominant NFL back.
It is almost routine for players, especially young players, to come back strong from serious knee injuries. It's not like it was in 1970. And Peterson is a physical phenomenon who has so much going for him that he will be able to compensate if his knee is not quite as flexible or strong as it once was.
It typically takes a player about one full year to recover from an injury of this magnitude, however. That means Peterson is more likely to be king of the NFL runners again in 2013 after a year of being just a very good back.
Vikings will be cautious
Adrian Peterson will be back in optimal physical condition in time for the 2012 regular season. Surely, the workout warrior will be physically capable of again putting up All-Pro numbers. But I don't think he will.
Peterson's season-ending knee injury wasn't his only injury in 2011, and I expect the Vikings to be cautious with Peterson in 2012 and beyond.
I expect the Vikings to do their best to protect their investment. That means Peterson won't be handed the ball as often in 2012. It will minimize wear and tear on the Vikings' most expensive and injury-susceptible player, while it nearly guarantees the team won't have to pay Peterson his million-dollar bonus for rushing for 1,250 yards.
Odds not in his favor
Los Angeles Times
If Adrian Peterson is as explosive and productive as he was before his knee injury, he'll be the exception. The odds are not in his favor. A 2006 report by the American Journal of Sports Medicine shows that players who suffer that type of ACL injury typically see their performance drop by one-third if they are able to return to the game.
Peterson is such a physical specimen, he might be able to pick up where he left off. And as far as household-name backs returning from season-ending injuries, he's one in a long line. The Raiders' Darren McFadden (foot), the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles (knee), the Bills' Fred Jackson (broken leg), the Bears' Matt Forte (knee) and the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall (knee) are trying to do the same.
Will Adrian Peterson return as good as ever?