Philadelphia, Pa – Exactly one year to the day of his surgery to repair a potentially career-threatening ACL injury, Adrian Peterson came just 27 feet short of achieving a spectacular personal goal.
The reigning MVP finished nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's NFL record for most rushing yards in a season, but he didn't let his team fall short of anything, lifting the Minnesota Vikings back into the postseason for the first time in three years with a 199-yard rushing effort during a 37-34, last-second victory over the rival Green Bay Packers in Week 17 of the 2012 season.
Peterson finished his remarkable comeback campaign with 2,097 rushing yards to become the seventh player in NFL history to surpass the 2,000-yard barrier.
Greg Childs isn't going to be the NFL's MVP in 2013, but he could be shaping up as the sequel to A.P when it comes to medical miracles.
Injuries are a part of football, of course, but few are as catastrophic as the one Childs endured last August.
The promising young wide receiver tore both his patellar tendons after elevating for a pass and landing awkwardly during Vikings training camp.
Childs, a 23-year-old Arkansas product, was once shaping up as a potential first- or second-round draft choice after a brilliant sophomore season with the Razorbacks, one in which he started eight of 13 games and led the team with 48 receptions for 894 yards and seven touchdowns.
Childs continued to impress as a junior in 2010, hauling in 46 receptions for 659 yards and six touchdowns before suffering a season-ending patellar tendon injury in his right knee. By the time Childs returned to the lineup in 2011, he admitted he wasn't quite himself and eventually slid to the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, selected 134th overall by the Vikings.
It was a calculated gamble by Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman, but on paper at least, a prudent one. The Vikings were in desperate need of help outside the numbers and at 6-foot-3 and nearly 220 pounds with 4.49-second speed in the 40-yard dash and an ability to high-point the football, Childs still had a first-round ceiling.
That ceiling collapsed, however, when Childs crumbled to the turf at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato.
A layman might jump to the conclusion that Childs' previous tear at Arkansas made him more susceptible to the same injury, but that's not the case according to Dr. Ben Wedro, an expert in exercise physiology and athletic injuries who has provided medical consultation at the Olympics and World Cup.
"A well-reconstructed patellar tendon repair should not be at risk, unless the player returns too quickly to play," Wedro said. "This was not the case for Childs, since there was significant time between (his first) surgery and the second injury."
By all accounts, Childs was looking good at training camp last season and feeling fine before the second injury, a very rare occurrence.
"Bilateral patellar tendon rupture is exceedingly rare, especially in an otherwise healthy athlete," Wedro said. "Systemic diseases include kidney failure, systemic lupus erythematosis, rheumatoid arthritis and hyperparathyroidism, not illnesses that usually afflict NFL players."
Childs underwent surgery performed by Vikings team physician Joel Boyd shortly after the injury and Boyd tightened up the tendons, something that Childs said wasn't done in the first surgery back in Arkansas.
On Tuesday, Childs was back on the practice field for the first time since his injury, running routes after the team's OTAs were finished for the day at Winter Park.
He was planting and cutting with no obvious signs of caution or discomfort, even finishing things by rising up and dunking the football over the crossbar before leaving the field.
"I've been cutting like that for a good little while now," Childs told the assembled media. "I'm taking it day by day. I feel good, but, at the same time, the Minnesota Vikings aren't rushing me. That's why I'm doing so well now."
It's been just over 10 months since Childs suffered the injury. According to a rehab timetable forwarded by Wedro, the return of quadriceps bulk and strength usually is delayed with this type of injury, and the return to premorbid athletic activities should take approximately nine to 12 months.
"To return to full function and sports specific rehab, the quadriceps muscle has to be near full strength and the knee has to have full range of motion," Wedro said.
Childs believes he's very close to reaching that goal.
"There's nothing I can't do right now. I could do everything I was doing before, better than I was doing before, right now," Childs said. "But it's just not rushing it. They've been telling me to pump the brakes. We've been sticking to our plan."
And that plan seems to be training camp.
"You'd like to get him for training camp when we get down to Mankato. Got my fingers crossed hoping that will happen," Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said when asked about Childs. "(We're) waiting on (trainer) Eric Sugarman and our medical staff to give us the green light. But that would be my hope. We'll see what happens. I'm not sure what direction it will go."
The odds remain stacked against Childs. Only two other NFL players have had similar injuries in recent years and neither was able to return; Wendell Davis of the Chicago Bears in 1993 and Gary Baxter of the Cleveland Browns in 2006.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are far deeper at wide receiver than they were last season despite trading Percy Harvin to Seattle. Minnesota signed unrestricted free agent Greg Jennings, drafted the dynamic Corderrelle Patterson in the first round of the 2013 draft, and expect a bounce back hear from veteran Jerome Simpson as well as big things from Childs' teammate at Arkansas, second-year pro Jarius Wright.
Childs has already overcome more significant hurdles, though, and who knows ... maybe there is something in the water in Minnesota.
"I'm just taking it day by day," Childs said. "I definitely feel good."