Adrian Peterson 'never cheated the system'

For some, the remarkable comeback of Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson last season was too good to be true. Peterson returned to action in less than 10 months after major knee surgery and nearly broke the NFL record for rushing yards in a season, prompting what has become a natural and unfortunate question in today's sports world: Did he get some help?

Here's how Bill Simmons put it on Grantland.com in February: "There is no such thing as 'the benefit of the doubt' anymore. Not in sports. Too many people took advantage. All the benefits are gone."

So it's worth checking out Pete Prisco's extended interview and film session with Peterson over at CBSSports.com. Peterson said that an unnamed Detroit Lions player mentioned it during a game, and for the first time I'm aware, Peterson denied using any performance-enhancing drugs to enhance his recovery. Here's the relevant excerpt:

Peterson heard the talk himself, including during a game against the Lions, where he had this exchange:

Unnamed Lions linebacker: "Whatever you were juicing on, let me know. I need it."

Peterson: "Man, it's a lot of prayer. The juice of God."

Peterson said the next time the two teams met, that player told him how what Peterson told him that day touched him.

"It was like turning a negative into a positive," Peterson said. "To be honest with you, it makes me feel good when people say little stuff like that, and I'm sure it happens all the time. I guess I am performing that well that people think I'm juicing, that I am taking something. That really shows me how much God has blessed me to be able to come back and play the way I played. To me, it's a compliment (the PED talk). I've always been an honest person. I never cheated the system. I am big on taking advantage of my natural abilities and applying work ethic to it to be able to climb the highest level. People make that decision to do that (PEDS), but I'm not that individual. I feel like I'd be cheating myself. And things I've accomplished would be void. That's not what I am about."

I guess we can debate whether it's fair to make Peterson answer to accusations based on the misdoings of others -- rather than supporting evidence. But as Simmons wrote, it's an unfortunate part of our times. Peterson's positive, non-defensive answer spoke volumes to me.