THERE'S NO question that Adrian Peterson is a fast healer. Not since the Minnesota Vikings' star running back tore an ACL in late-December 2011 and came back less than 9 months later to nearly break the single-season rushing record and win the MVP award.
After suffering a midfoot sprain in the second quarter of the Vikings' overtime loss at Baltimore last Sunday, Peterson has vowed to return to face the Eagles tomorrow, making what would be yet another impressive return after being carted off the field a week earlier.
He participated in the Vikings' light workout yesterday and coach Leslie Frazier said his stride looked "far better than I anticipated." Peterson is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision, Frazier said.
"I feel pretty confident," Peterson said. "I feel pretty good. I'm excited I feel the way I do, based off the injury and the time I've had to kind of rejuvenate that body and rehab the foot to get the strength back."
"He can do things that most can't, in terms of coming back from injuries," Frazier told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We were walking up the stairs a few minutes ago, and I said, 'Hey, what do you think?' He said, 'I'll be ready, coach; don't worry about me.' That's Adrian."
Whether the Eagles face Peterson, backup Toby Gerhart (who also is questionable, with a hamstring injury) or third-string running back Matt Asiata for the majority of the game, defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the team never takes such injuries into account.
"We prepare like everybody is healthy," Davis said. "We prepare that all people that are in question - if we don't know if they are healthy - we're going to get their best, all of them are up, and we're going to prepare that way. And then we'll adjust as the week goes on and we get more information, just like we would during a game. If something happens to one of those guys during a game, we would adjust accordingly, like we did in this game where all of a sudden at the last minute Reggie Bush wasn't up." (The Lions' running back aggravated a calf injury in warmups last Sunday.)
For the Eagles who may have to face Peterson tomorrow - even if it is in a limited role - changing the game plan was never an option because of the similar running styles of Peterson and Gerhart.
"I remember watching Gerhart at Stanford and I remember saying he was a downhill runner - somebody that was very strong, not scared to run between the tackles - and that's pretty much what they do in Minnesota," linebacker Brandon Graham said. "It's definitely an offense that he and Peterson thrive in because they are both downhill runners. They both complement each other real good and we just have to be ready for whomever we face."
Fellow Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks knows Gerhart from the Pac-12, when Kendricks played for Cal. "Oh, that boy," Kendricks said of the 6-foot-, 231-pound Gerhart. "I know him very well. I played against him for 2 years in college. He is a downhill type of guy, hard-nosed runner. He is one of those guys who is a huge-effort guy who keeps his feet moving. He is a big boy, too, so I know he will use that to his advantage."
Peterson was the NFL's leading rusher before the Eagles' LeSean McCoy overtook him last weekend. With 1,305 yards, McCoy is 84 ahead of Peterson. While it is hard to imagine the Peterson will be 100 percent if he does end up play tomorrow, Kendricks believes having Peterson one step slower would be a plus for the Eagles.
"In all honesty, it would be a huge advantage," Kendricks said. "I know me, being a competitor, and the guys in this locker room, we don't wish an injury on anybody. We want competition and I want a chance to play against Adrian Peterson. To be honest with you, I have been looking forward to this game and seeing what he is like. If he is to play, we will be prepared. If he is a step slow, I know he is a competitor. And I don't even know if his step will be that much slower than we think it would be, but if he plays, he plays. If he doesn't, he doesn't."
The Eagles have played against some of the league's premier running backs, such as Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, Washington's Alfred Morris and Green Bay's Eddie Lacy. After having already faced elite running backs already - and practiced against McCoy - defensive end Cedric Thornton believes the Eagles are up for the challenge whether Peterson can or play or not.
"We've faced a lot of great running backs and our defense has once out of every week been able to face the best running back in the league right now - and that's LeSean McCoy - so we are definitely prepared for the challenge," Thornton said. "Because we have a variety of running backs here like Chris Polk and Bryce Brown to go up against, we are ready for any challenge that faces us."
There is no doubt that Peterson is one of the most competitive players in the NFL and superhuman for his ability to return to the field quickly. If Peterson is able to play tomorrow, he will. Regardless, the Eagles will be well prepared for yet another challenge as they look to win their sixth straight game.
"We're not going to treat it any different, whether he is hurt, playing or not playing," linebacker Trent Cole said. "We're going in there with the intentions to win and it doesn't matter to us if he is in there or not. Not at all."