STATESBORO, Ga. - All-America fullback Adrian Peterson doesn't expect to be 100 percent Saturday when Georgia Southern meets McNeese State in the first round of the Division I-AA playoffs.
Peterson figures he'll be at 120 percent after finally getting the green light to play after missing two games with a hyper-extended left elbow.
"I sat out three weeks," he said after practice Monday. "I'm ready."
An Adrian Peterson at 120 percent is like adding another keg of gunpowder to a nuclear weapon. The 1999 Walter Payton Award winner, signifying the most valuable player in I-AA, has run for 5,100 yards during his three-year collegiate career and never played in a game at Georgia Southern when he didn't gain at least 100 yards.
His regular-season tally of 31 straight 100-yard games tied a Division I record set by former Ohio State-great Archie Griffin in 1975. That record will not be in jeopardy Saturday because post-season games do not count in official NCAA records.
Peterson suffered the elbow injury while straining for yardage against East Tennessee State. He sat out the Eagles' games against Furman and Elon and had another week off during GSU's bye week.
Could Peterson have played those final two games?
"Maybe, I don't know but it would have been too big a chance," said coach Paul Johnson. "To me, it wasn't worth the risk."
Southern head trainer Dennis Gruber said without the time off Peterson risked tearing the elbow ligament completely.
"In retrospect, it was definitely the right thing to do," Gruber said. "His elbow's doing fine. He's got the majority of his motion back (in his arm) and his strength is back. He's ready to go.
"If this was a couple of weeks and we were playing Furman (without Peterson having time to heal), yeah, I'd be worried."
Johnson and the Eagles had the luxury of sitting Peterson out the final two games because they clinched the Southern Conference title in the win against ETSU.
Without Peterson, Southern lost to Furman, 45-10, and needed some creative offensive play selection to out-fox Elon 32-9 in the season finale. With the split in the final two games, the Eagles only lost two spots in the seedings, dropping from a No. 1 ranking in the two major I-AA polls.
Peterson worked out Monday with a protective plastic brace engulfing his left elbow.
He did not take any hits in practice.
"It doesn't hurt to be hit, it's the extension part that's been the problem," Peterson said.
Certainly, Peterson's return to the Eagles' lineup comes at a good time. McNeese State is ranked seventh in rushing defense, allowing just 98.5 yards a game. Southern is third in rushing offense with 331.1 yards per game.
The Eagles were No. 2 in rushing when Peterson left the lineup. But no one's looking back.
"(Adrian's) good to go and that's the main thing," Johnson said. "He looked good today in practice. He's about where we thought he'd be (with rest)."
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