Adrian Peterson has ruined it for everyone. By being an awesome healer (and other things) he has made it impossible for every other subsequent ACL tearer — what an unfortunate title — to rehab on anything resembling a normal pace.
I am scheduled to talk to Peterson this week (spoiler alert: he may or may not have won a Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America award this season, to be announced early next week) for the next issue of the digital edition of the magazine. I am curious to hear his thoughts on this matter.
Let’s start with Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, who underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ACL and LCL, and by all accounts the surgery was a success. After all, when in the history of sports injuries, have you ever heard of it not being a success? (There’s an old doctor joke that says “successful surgery” means the anesthetic wore off and the patient woke up. I know a few doctors, and I am not even sure that’s a joke.)
So Peterson returned to the field 37 weeks after his knee injury. Griffin, cut open Wednesday, will have about a 34-week timetable before the Redskins kick off next season. Sorry to break the news to those non-Redskins fans wanting their team to trade for Kirk Cousins: It ain’t happening.
Beyond the shorter recovery period, there are other hoops — figuratively, of course — for Griffin to jump through. One, Peterson’s knee reportedly was in nearly pristine condition otherwise when they cut him open, save for the ACL. Griffin has torn the same ACL previously, and who knows what kind of damage he did by playing on the LCL sprain for nearly a month?
Plus, Griffin is a quarterback. He needs time and reps. He can’t just jump into the lineup the way Peterson could. A running back’s job is to hit a hole and make yards. A QB’s job — from hearing and echoing a play call to letting go of the ball — is the most difficult in sports. It requires patience, execution, mental acuity and athletic prowess. Griffin has all those things, but he won’t be in peak form initially and likely won’t return to the field in time to start Week One.
It’s not just Griffin, either. Every running back who suffers this injury will have his timeline paralleled with Peterson’s — it’s just not fair. The man clearly is a freak of nature. He had the best season of his career after suffering what used to be known as a back’s death knell. Advances in orthopedic medicine notwithstanding, Peterson is most certainly an outlier. Forget that: He’s a once-a-generation anomaly.
Please, for all that is good, don’t make Peterson’s genetic superiority the new standard. Comparing Everyman to Superman just isn’t fair. We must understand that every injury is unique and that most men in the NFL are extremely tough. We also must realize that John Elway, who legend has it played an entire career without an ACL, and Peterson are the Halley’s Comet of football players.
Tearing an ACL used to mean six months of painful daily rehab and then feeling not quite the same athlete as before the injury during the following season. Now it carries a whole new definition of pain: Having to live up to an unfair specimen in Peterson and his amazing comeback.