Now that he's coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Frazier is watching another of the greatest running backs of all-time in Adrian Peterson.
Peterson, who rushed for 210 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 2, will need 208 yards against the Packers on Sunday to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
"I feel like I played with arguably the greatest to ever play the position (in Payton)," Frazier said in a conference call on Wednesday to preview Sunday's Packers-Viking showdown at the Metrodome. "When he had that 82-yard run at Lambeau, I'm telling you now, on the sideline, I thought about Walter. Walter had some big games up there, as well, and I was on the sideline seeing some of those runs. I've told Adrian this a number of times: He's the closest thing that I've seen to Walter because he has the power, he has the speed, he has the agility. He's a three-down back; he's not a guy that has to come off the field. I'd put him up there with all the greats that have ever played the position, without question. And he's not done. He's going to do a whole lot more. We're witnessing greatness in watching Adrian Peterson. He's not done. There's still more to be accomplished by Adrian."
Record or no record, Peterson is having one of the most remarkable individual seasons in the history of sports. On Christmas Eve 2011, Peterson tore his ACL and MCL. An injury that has ruined countless careers and derailed countless others, Peterson somehow is performing better than ever.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield saw Peterson's return to form quickly this season.
"The first time he ran the ball during the regular season," Winfield said during his conference call. "During training camp, he didn't get too many reps and the coaches kind of brought him along slow. That guy's a special player."
Peterson's 1,898 rushing yards already ranks as the eighth-best season in NFL history. During an eight-game streak of 100-yard rushing games that ended last week, he rushed for 1,313 yards. That alone would rank sixth in the NFL. He's averaging a startling 6.0 yards per carry and has two of the NFL's four individual rushing games of more than 200 yards.
Never mind Comeback Player of the Year. To have the Vikings one win from the playoffs after going 3-13 last season, Peterson will receive strong consideration for MVP.
"He'd get my vote," Frazier said. "Some of the things he's done this season (are remarkable), and when you consider coming off ACL surgery for a running back and to be dominating your position and leading a team that very few people thought we'd be playing the last game of the season to go to the playoffs, a lot of it has to do with Adrian's success. Although we've had a number of guys contribute, nobody has dominated when there's been so much attention paid to him the way Adrian has at the running back position or carried the team like he has on a number of occasions. He's been fantastic for us. I don't think we'd be in this position without him having a monster season. Yes, he'd get my vote."
Peterson has carried the load but the Vikings are surging at the right time. After losing 23-14 at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2 to fall to 6-6, the Vikings rebounded to beat Chicago and St. Louis. Then, last week, the Vikings served notice to the rest of the league with a convincing 23-6 win at AFC power Houston. They did it without a monster game by Peterson (25 carries, 86 yards) because quarterback Christian Ponder was efficient (offense converted 9-of-18 third-down plays) and the defense was dominant in holding the Texans to 187 yards and 1-for-11 on third down.
"Adrian has had so many big games for us and it's kind of overshadowed that we have a lot of players that are contributing to our success and have contributed throughout the season," Frazier said. "Rightfully so, Adrian should be getting the brunt of the attention. When you can rush for 200 yards the number of times that he has and over 1,800 yards rushing, that's rare, rare air. We have some other guys that are contributing and they understand that it's a team game and they bought into that philosophy and it's paying off for us."
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