By Larry Fine
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson carried off two top awards, including Most Valuable Player honors, at the National Football League awards show on Saturday.
Peterson, who overcame a career-threatening injury to lead the Vikings into the playoffs, was also named Offensive Player of the Year after coming within nine yards of setting a single season NFL rushing record.
While pleased to have won recognition for his performance, Peterson told reporters he was disappointed to have fallen short of his ultimate goal.
"I was definitely hoping to get to the Super Bowl. That was my goal," said the 27-year-old Peterson, whose 2011 season ended when he tore ligaments in his knee. "Come back, lead my team and help my team get to the Super Bowl.
"Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But I played my heart out every opportunity I had ... (and) I got a couple of good pieces of hardware to bring back and stack in my statue area.
"So it feels good."
The Houston Texans' J.J. Watt won the Defensive Player of the Year award.
"I can get a lot better, I'm only 23," Watt said. "I'm still growing as a human being, and as a person and as a player."
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning denied Peterson a clean sweep of awards available to him by winning Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Former Indianapolis Colts leader Manning missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing a series of neck surgeries and returned to the field with the Broncos, leading them to the playoffs as top seed in the American Football Conference.
"I really did not know what to expect," Manning said about his return. "I had the double variables of coming off an injury, not playing for a year and joining a new team, a new system, new team mates.
"That certainly added a lot to my plate. So it was hard knowing what to expect."
Quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose strong arm and running prowess led the Washington Redskins to a 10-6 record and their first NFC East title since 1999, was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly, who led the NFL in tackles (164) for the Carolina Panthers, grabbed the award for defensive rookies.
Coach of the Year was Bruce Arians, who stepped in to lead the Colts after Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and steered them into the playoffs with an 11-5 record after the team had gone 2-14 in 2011.
Arians will be coaching the Arizona Cardinals next season with Pagano returning to the Colts sideline.
Peterson said making it back to the top of his profession after hurting his knee was not the toughest challenge he ever had to overcome.
"Losing my brother at seven (years of age), he was hit by a car right in front of me. That was the toughest," he said.
"Just going through the things I went through, the situation with my brother, that made me stronger. I was able to look at my knee like it was nothing. Another opportunity, another challenge for whatever reason is here."
Winners were selected by panel of football writers conducted by the Associated Press.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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