Peterson, Manning, Watt Earn Honors

Adrian Peterson, 2012 MVP

The AP handed out the annual awards for MVP, rookies, offense, defense and comeback player of the year.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson's sensational season following major knee surgery earned him The Associated Press 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player Award.

The Minnesota Vikings running back finished with 2,019 yards, a mere 9 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's rushing record. Peterson beat out Peyton Manning, who in his first season as Denver's quarterback contended for a fifth MVP trophy. Manning's four are a record.

''My career could have easily been over, just like that,'' the sensational running back said. ''Oh man. The things I've been through throughout my lifetime has made me mentally tough."

Peterson received 30 1-2 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Manning got the other 19 1-2 votes.

Peterson led the Vikings from a 3-13 mark to 10-6 and a wild-card playoff berth. He is the first running back to win MVP since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.


COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: PEYTON MANNING, Denver Broncos

Manning's stunning return from four neck surgeries netted him The Associated Press 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

''This injury was unlike any other,'' said the only four-time league MVP. ''There really was no bar or standard, there were no notes to copy. We were coming up with a rehab plan as we went.''

The four-time league MVP guided the Broncos to the AFC's best record, 13-3, in his first season in Denver.

Before sitting out 2011, Manning had never missed a start in his first 13 seasons with Indianapolis. Manning received 31 1-2 votes Saturday from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.

He easily beat Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who got 17 1-2 votes after his comeback from major knee surgery. Peterson came within 9 yards of the NFL rushing record and helped Minnesota go from 3-13 to 10-6 and a wild-card berth.

Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles got one vote.


COACH OF THE YEAR: Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts
Arians became the first interim coach to win the top NFL award from The Associated Press.

''It's hard to put into words the feelings of this past year,'' said Arians, who was hired by the Cardinals in late January. ''This was kind of the cherry on the top, whipped cream and everything else you put on top.''

Arians now is head coach in Arizona.

Arians took charge of the Colts in late September after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. The Colts, 2-14 the previous season, went 9-3 under Arians and made the playoffs.

Pagano coached the final game of the regular season and a wild-card playoff match.

Arians earned 36 1-2 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Pagano finished second with 5 1-2, while Pete Carroll of Seattle received five and Leslie Frazier of Minnesota got three.

Arians spent only one season in Indy before landing the Cardinals job.


OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ADRIAN PETERSON, MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Peterson won The Associated Press 2012 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award just one year after major knee surgery.

The Minnesota Vikings running back rushed for 2,109 yards, 9 short of Eric Dickerson's record. He dominated voting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL, getting 36 ballots to eight for runner-up QB Peyton Manning of Denver.

Quarterbacks Tom Brady of New England and Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay, and receiver Calvin Johnson of Detroit each got two votes.

Even more startling is that Peterson's remarkable year followed major knee surgery at the end of 2011. He led the Vikings' turnaround from a 3-13 record to 10-6 and a wild-card playoff berth, scoring 12 touchdowns rushing and averaging 6.0 yards per carry.


DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Houston end Watt won The Associated Press 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, missing a perfect ballot by one vote.

The NFL's sacks leader with 20 1-2 and a pass-blocking fiend, Watt earned 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. Denver linebacker Von Miller received the other vote.

Watt, a versatile second-year player with a tremendous burst off the line, also forced four fumbles and recovered two in helping the Texans to their second straight AFC South title. With his long wingspan, he blocked a stunning 16 passes.

Houston end J.J. Watt swatted the competition for Defensive Player of the Year, getting 49 votes; Denver's Von Miller got the other in the most lopsided balloting of all the awards.

''In my plans it was there,'' Watt said of being honored. He led the NFL with 20 1-2 sacks and also blocked an astounding 16 passes. ''It sets the bar for me. I want to go out and do even better. I want to do even bigger things.''

Watt is the first Texans player to win the award. Last year, Miller ran away with the top defensive rookie award while Watt was not in contention.


OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Griffin beat out fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson to win the Year award. From a brilliant rookie class, RG3 was a strong winner Saturday night in voting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.

''It's truly a blessing to be up there - to be able to stand, first and foremost,'' said Griffin, who underwent knee surgery last month. He added that next season ''you'll see a better Robert Griffin.''

Wearing a burgundy and gold tie, in honor of his Skins, Griffin said his goal is to be ready for the season opener.


DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Kuechly, Carolina's tackling machine at linebacker, won the Associated Press 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Kuechly, a first-round pick from Boston College, led the league with 164 tackles. He began the season on the outside but moved to middle linebacker five games into the season and the Panthers went from 24th in the league in overall defense to 10th.

He earned 28 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. That easily outdistanced Seattle LB Bobby Wagner with 11. Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward got six votes, while St. Louis CB Janoris Jenkins got three. Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David got the other two votes.

He is the second Panther to win the award; DE Julius Peppers got it in 2002.


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