Star Running Backs Coming Back Strong From ACL Injuries

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During the 2011 season, three star running backs – Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Rashard Mendenhall – suffered torn ACLs, making each of them a risky proposition in 2012 fantasy drafts. But this year, all three have shown that it’s (mostly) safe to trust them again.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
In 2011, the Minnesota Vikings won only three games. In week 16, superstar running back Peterson tore his ACL. There didn’t appear to be a lot of hope in Minnesota for 2012. But five games into the season, Peterson is back and the Vikings already have more wins (4) than in all of 2011.
Though listed as questionable going into week 1, Peterson not only played, but scored two touchdowns while gaining 84 yards on 17 carries. After gaining 60 yards on 16 carries in week 2, Peterson’s workload rose to 25 carries in week 3, though he was able to pick up just 86 yards against the strong 49ers’ defense. In week 4, Peterson cracked 100 yards on the ground for the first time in 2012, picking up 102 yards on 21 carries.  Peterson added 88 yards on 17 carries in week 5, giving him 420 yards for the season.  He now has 957 yards for the season. Peterson’s 5.8 yards/carry is better than his career mark of 4.8.
As for the rest of the season, Peterson has six TDs as of press time, with two of them in week 1.  In his first five seasons, Peterson scored 64 rushing touchdowns and added three touchdowns on receptions.
Another player people have on their fantasy football radar is a Kansas City star.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
After rushing for 1,467 yards in 2010, Charles tore his ACL in the second game of the 2011 season and missed the rest of the year. In the offseason, the Chiefs signed Peyton Hillis away from Cleveland and made Brian Daboll their offensive coordinator. Daboll had been offensive coordinator in Cleveland when Hillis had his breakout season in 2010. In the 2012 preseason, Hillis appeared to have a good chance of sharing carries with Charles.
Charles made a successful return in the first game of 2012, rushing for 87 yards on 16 carries.  But in week 2, Charles had just six yards on three carries, leaving the game with soreness in his surgically repaired knee. Hillis, meanwhile, had 66 yards on 11 carries.
In week 3, however, Charles erased all doubts that he was once again an elite back. Charles rushed for 233 yards and caught six passes for 55 yards as the Chiefs upset New Orleans.  He followed that up with 88 yards in week 4 and 140 yards in week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens.
After five weeks, Charles led the NFL in rushing with 551 yards.  He currently has 634 yards on the season.
As for Hillis, he left the New Orleans game with an ankle injury and had still not returned to action after week 5, although he did return at the end of October.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
After rushing for 3,309 yards with 29 touchdowns over the last three years, Mendenhall tore his ACL in week 17 of the 2011 season. Though Mendenhall was removed from the physically unable to perform list in mid-August, he did not return to the field until week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In his first game back, Mendenhall rushed for 81 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 20 yards. Mendenhall also scored a touchdown on a 13-yard run, a longer touchdown than any of his scores in 2011.
With Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer doing a poor job as Mendenhall’s fill-ins in the first part of the year, Mendenhall was back as Pittsburgh’s primary back as long as he stays healthy. Unfortunately, his Achilles tendon has sidelined him for the past month, although the Steelers did say that he is still their No. 1 option when he returns.
Ben Hargrove writes for a variety of sports sites, including DraftStreet.