NEW ORLEANS — Just more than a year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won two NFL awards, most valuable player and offensive player of the year, on Saturday.
Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, 9 off the NFL record, and helped the Vikings improve from 3-13 to 10-6 and a playoff berth.
"My career could have easily been over," he said. "I'm kind of speechless. This is amazing."
Peterson earned 301/2 of 50 votes from a media panel. The other 191/2 votes went to Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, whose recovery from four neck surgeries earned him comeback player honors.
After sitting out 2011 and being released by the Colts, Manning led the Broncos to a 13-3 record.
"I can't tell you how grateful and thankful I am," said Manning, whose 311/2 votes outdistanced Peterson (171/2) and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (one). "I can't tell you how happy I am to be playing the game of football we all love so much."
The Redskins' Robert Griffin III beat out two other quarterbacks for offensive rookie of the year. He earned 29 votes to 11 for the Colts' Andrew Luck and 10 for the Seahawks' Russell Wilson. It was Griffin's first appearance since Jan. 9 surgery for two torn ligaments in his right knee.
"I'm pretty far ahead," he said. "My goal is Week 1."
Texans end J.J. Watt got all but one vote for defensive player of the year. (Broncos linebacker Von Miller got the other.) Watt's 201/2 sacks were two off the record.
"It sets the bar for me," he said.
Bruce Arians became the first interim coach to win coaching honors. Arians, now Arizona's coach, got 361/2 votes for going 9-3 with the Colts while Chuck Pagano (second with 51/2 votes) was treated for leukemia.
"It's hard to put into words the feelings of this past year," Arians said. "This was kind of the cherry on the top, whipped cream and everything else you put on top."
Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who led the league with 164 tackles, won defensive rookie of the year with 28 votes. Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was second with 11, and Bucs linebacker Lavonte David got two.