After tearing his MCL and ACL on Dec. 24, 2011, the Vikings running back came back and ran for 2,097 yards this season, nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's 1984 record.
DAN PATRICK:How does it feel to redefine the standard for coming back from a knee injury?
ADRIAN PETERSON: It took a lot of hard work and prayer. But genetically, I've got a little edge [in] healing.
DP:When did you start running with this style?
AP: Since I started playing tackle outside. That'll make you run angry.
DP:You're not afraid to initiate contact.
AP: Growing up watching other guys play, I saw a lot of backs tiptoe through the hole and take the hits. Running backs get hit a lot, so I want to be the guy delivering the blows.
DP:Do you want to add even more muscle to help protect yourself?
AP: Earlier in my career I wanted to get to 225. I thought that was the mark. I got up to that weight. I really didn't like it. It didn't feel the same. I like to play at 215.
DP:Hardest hit you ever took?
AP: Against Detroit. It was Shaun Rogers. It was an outside zone play. I remember bouncing outside the tackle, and a free safety cut me off. I cut right back into the pursuing defense. Shaun Rogers, 350 pounds, just crushed me ... hit me haaard.
DP:Did it bother you that you didn't win the Heisman after you ran for 1,925 yards as a freshman at Oklahoma?
AP: It did. I felt the only reason I didn't win it was [that] I was a freshman.
DP:Who won the Heisman that year?
AP: Matt Leinart.
DP:Ever tell Leinart he has your Heisman?
AP: No, I didn't think I had to.
DP:It's a passing game now. Where do running backs fit in?
AP: I'm hoping the way I play inspires youngsters. With that, we'll produce the next generation of great backs. They'll have to put us in the game plan and give us our reps.
DP:When you came off the field against the Packers in Week 17, did you think you had broken Eric Dickerson's single-season record?
AP: No, because they would have told me immediately. But I didn't know I was nine yards short. That stunned me at first. When I got lifted up [on my teammates' shoulders], I was just happy we were in field goal range.
DP:Do you think you can break it next year?
AP: I feel I'll cruise past it.
DP:What's your goal for next season?
AP: I set the mark at 2,500.
DP:Did anyone trash-talk you when you were going for the rushing record?
AP: Yeah, especially St. Louis. Eric Dickerson called to try to pump those guys up. They were talking so much trash. And I'm like an assassin on the field—that's what I call myself on the field, the assassin—because I don't really say much when I play.
DP:Were they able to bait you at all?
AP: I kind of fed back into it. I was talking trash. I was like, Get back to your normal self. I broke one [run] for 82 yards, and they didn't say anything else after that.
"I don't know if you ever shake it. It was awful. But it was so much more complicated than that, because it was more than a suicide. There was the act that took place before.... There's a lot I still have to sort out. Surreal doesn't even do it justice."
—SCOTT PIOLI, former Chiefs G.M., on being present when Jovan Belcher fatally shot himself
Critics are ripping the potential for cold weather at the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium next February, but Victor Cruz said his Giants are fired up. "Trust me, we all marked that on our calendars," Cruz told me. "We understand exactly how big it is to play in the Super Bowl in New York City." ... Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski told me Tom Brady has little patience for mistakes: "If it's a big screwup and I've screwed up on it before and not learned from it.... It's a game of emotions. He's a high-emotion player." ... I asked Broncos LB Von Miller if he'd rather face a mobile QB or a pocket passer. "Nobody wants to play a Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson," Miller said. "It's already hard enough to get a pass rush on great quarterbacks. You want to go against a guy who's going to stay and take a sack." ... Texans DE J.J. Watt played TE in college and was thrilled to get a chance to play offense in the Pro Bowl, but it didn't quite work out. "I blew that one," Watt told me. "I lined up offside, and Peyton [Manning] had to call me back in. I was all over the place, I was so excited. Then I dropped the ball."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
DAVID E. KLUTHO (PETERSON)
JACK DEMPSEY/ INVISION/AP (CRUZ)
JORDAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP (GRONKOWSKI)
ERIC BAKKE/AP (MILLER)
JOHN BIEVER (WATT)