Through the last five years of NFL football, there have been four words that became every Vikings fans worst nightmare.

“And down goes Peterson.”

Adrian Peterson is not only a first round pick, not only a hundred million dollar running back, he is the heart and soul of the team.  That is why it hurt all of us to see him writhing in pain during a week 16 matchup against the Redskins.

Peterson tore his ACL and his MCL in the third quarter of that game and two weeks ago he underwent reconstructive surgery.  Friday, he crossed a stage without crutches (but with a brace) and used the media to let all of us fans know he will not be a lost cause from this point forward.

“I feel like I’m going to come back better than before,” Peterson said. “I know people might laugh at that or think otherwise, but you know what? It doesn’t matter what they think or how they feel about it. The only thing that matters is how I feel about it and what I believe.”

I’m not going to laugh at Peterson, that much is for sure, but I do think that his goals of being even better and also returning by week one of 2012 might be a bit lofty.  Still, I’ve yet to hear of a person willing to bet against him.

The Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman praised Peterson for already being ahead of schedule with his rehabilitation.  Sugarman said Peterson is already riding a stationary bike, extending the injured knee, and there are plans to have him jog in a pool next week.

Sugarman and Peterson both acknowledged they will have to fight the temptation to let Peterson’s elite physical abilities trick them into thinking he is ready for more than he really is.

“I know around the two-month mark, the three-month mark, it’s going to be feeling good and that’s when it’s at its weakest, the ACL,” Peterson said. “I’m just going to have to be smart and listen to these guys and just take it slow during that time.”