Comeback player far from decided

Adrian Peterson has stiff competition for the Comeback Player of the Year award from Peyton Manning. Both are making strong cases for the award that will likely be decided in the final six games of the season.

There are plenty of awards that players want to win. Many veteran contracts are built in with escalators and bonuses for such things as Pro Bowl selection and the NFL's postseason awards – football's version of the leg lamp.

But one award nobody enters an NFL career hoping at some point to win is the Comeback Player of the Year award. It means you're coming off a significant injury that shelved you.

Neither are good things. But, for perhaps the first time in the history of the award, there is a fierce battle going on. Who should win the award – Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson? I feel I can adequately lay out the rationale for both candidates without any mention of "Big Spending Jim Graves" as the political ads were wont to do.

A compelling case can be made for Manning – at this point I am tugging on my defense attorney-quality suspenders. Throwing for 241 yards isn't too shabby – some may argue that was Christian Ponder's total for October. B that is the low point of Manning's 2012 season – a Week 2 loss at Atlanta when he threw three interceptions early. Since then, a span of seven games, the lowest yardage total for Manning has been 291. In the other six games, he has topped 300 yards. In five of those seven games, he has thrown three touchdowns. In each of his last six games, he has posted a passer rating above 103.0 and leads the NFL with a season-long passer rating of 108. Since throwing the three interceptions in Week 2, Manning has just three interceptions in the seven games since.

Like Brett Favre in 2009, he has done all this with new teammates he didn't know prior to showing up at training camp. The naysayers said he should have chosen San Francisco, which many believed was more Super Bowl-ready than the Broncos in the short-term. Many also thought that, after five neck surgeries, Manning shouldn't have come back at all. He did and is arguably the most efficient quarterback in the league.

Then there is A.P. Vikings fans know his story all too well. His knee got shredded on Christmas Eve and most medical types thought that he would miss the entire 2012 season. Not only did he return much faster than anyone expected, he is having arguably the most prolific season of his career. He leads the NFL in rushing with 1,128 yards, is averaging a whopping 5.8 yards per carry, has rushed for 79 or more yards in all but one game, has topped 100 yards in five games and, in the last four games, has rushed for 629 yards and five touchdowns.

Unlike Manning, who has players protecting him from taking big hits, Peterson plays the most physically demanding position on offense, where opponents stack the box to take shots at his injured knee and simply can't stop him. Not only has he come back from the injury, in recent weeks he has looked like the A.P. of old, breaking off runs of more than 60 yards in each of the last three games.

While awards – whether they are MVP awards or Comeback Player of the Year awards – typically go to quarterbacks, Peterson has made a compelling argument that he should break the mold. When all is said and done, one of them will get the CPOY honor. If there is a way to split it, they should both get it. A strong argument can be made for each that he is deserving of the hardware and title. In the process, not only have both of them made an amazing case to be Comeback Player of the Year, they've positioned themselves to be strong candidates for the Most Valuable Player. The final six weeks of the season will likely decide who wins it, but both Peterson and Manning are testaments to what hard work and desire to play despite devastating injuries can mean to a career. Who will win? The debate continues.

THURSDAY NOTES

  • On Wednesday, the most recent figures for fan votes to the 2013 Pro Bowl were released. Adrian Peterson ranks fifth with approximately 298,000 votes, trailing only Peyton Manning (377,000), Tom Brady (345,000), Arian Foster (333,000) and Aaron Rodgers (320,000).

  • Former NFL head coach John Madden, the faceplate of the EA Sports Madden video game, has always been a fan of offensive linemen – the grunts that do the dirty work to make skill position players look good. Every week, he names an offensive line with the Most Valuable Protectors Award – a Madden-style MVP acknowledgement. In Week 10, he named the Vikings offensive line as that week's recipient, paying homage to the linemen that helped Adrian Peterson run wild and Christian Ponder to complete 75 percent of his passes.

  • Nadmukong Suh earned a sack that he wasn't credited with when the Vikings played the Lions Sunday. Elias Sports Bureau, which keeps the official NFL stats, changed a scoring decision from Sunday's game to give Suh a third-quarter sack of Christian Ponder.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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