Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson knows how grueling the game of football is, both mentally and physically, and he definitely doesn’t like to see other running backs get hurt.
That’s why he could not help but feel some degree of emotion when he heard that Chiefs star Jamaal Charles suffered a season-ending right anterior cruciate ligament tear in the Chiefs’ 18-17 loss to the Bears on Sunday.
“It hurt me to the core (to see) my guy go down,” Peterson said.
Part of it is because Peterson knows how it feels to have a season end in a blink, during your prime years no less. Late during the 2011 season, Peterson suffered the same injury against Washington, so he has an idea of where Charles’ head is probably at right now.
“Initially, I just kind of accepted it for what it is,” Peterson said. “You know, not beat yourself up on what you could have done differently and just get the game plan to come back because it is what it is now. What are you going to do to come back and be ready to play next season? That’s where his mind needs to be.”
Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Wednesday that the Chiefs are currently formulating that game plan. Charles has been through this once before, as he tore the ACL in his other knee in 2011 and returned to rush for 1,509 yards and five touchdowns the next year.
“The fact that he’s been through this before helps him in the rehab process,” Burkholder said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into (the recovery) – the physician that does the surgery, the person rehabilitating him, the athlete, the athlete’s position, all that kind of stuff.”
So, Burkholder added, he would caution against trying to compare the last injury to this one, and others who have made it back from the same injury. Burkholder did say, however, that it sounds like Charles will be operated by Dr. James Andrews, who repaired his other knee.
Andrews, by the way, also performed the same surgery on Peterson, who bounced back from his ACL injury in 2011 to rush for an astounding 2,097 yards, just shy of the single-season record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
“He’s already been through some rehab sessions here to get ready,” Burkholder said of Charles. “He’s really in a really good place right now, considering everything that’s happened just a couple days ago.”
Peterson, who grew up in Texas, like Charles, anticipates reaching out to his friend in the upcoming days to make sure he’s in a good place.
“Me, personally, I’m going to make sure I reach out to him during the offseason because I know he’s back down in Texas and stuff,” Peterson said. “(I will) try and get him to come work out with my guy and, you know, to get him back to doing what he does best.”
Charles turns 29 in December, which doesn’t exactly make him a spring chicken for the position he plays. But when Peterson was going through his rehab — and he was 26 at the time — he never allowed himself to worry about whether he’d return to be as good as he was.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge but immediately, the first thing I did — I’m talking about when I was in the locker room in Washington — I told myself it was just a blessing in disguise for me,” Peterson said. “Give me something to work and to push for, and to come back at and overcome the odds. I knew people were going to have things to say about me not being able to come back and be the same and this, that and the other, so it was more so a challenge for me.
“As long as he looks at it that way and keeps his mind focused on the things he can control, it will work out good for him. He has so much talent. He’s one of those guys that has that God-given ability, so with that, I think if he just has his mind right, mentally, and puts the work in, he’ll be just fine.”
Peterson has proven it. Through four games this season, he’s rushed 75 times for 372 yards, an average of a sterling 5 yards per carry.
He’s still trucking strong at age 30, so much so that when asked Wednesday who is the real LeBron James of the NFL — Peterson and Charles engaged in a friendly war of words this summer over the title — Peterson laughed before upping the ante.
“I’ll say I’m the Michael Jordan and we’ll leave it at that,” Peterson said. “Because it’s always a debate, will LeBron be better than Michael? So I’ll say I’m the Michael Jordan of football.”
The Chiefs, 1-4, will get to see the self-professed M.J. of football on Sunday, when Peterson’s Vikings, 2-2, host them at TCF Bank Stadium. He knows it won’t be easy for Charles to sit out, given the love for the game that they both share.
“That’s a big part, you know, loving what you do and really having that passion for what you do because if you don’t have that, you’re really not working for anything,” Peterson said. “I think that has hurt a lot of guys.
“I’ve been able to come back because of the love and the passion that I have for the game. Watching Jamaal come back after he tore his left ACL, you could see that he had the same passion.”
And because of that, he’s confident Charles will return to be the same player he was.
“Knowing Jamaal, he’ll bounce back,” Peterson said. “He’ll bounce back.”