The biggest talker concerning Peterson over the last few days had nothing to do with him. It had to do with his response to a question.
During Saturday’s preseason game against Oakland, Peterson took his customary preseason spot on the sidelines as an observer with a really good view of the action.
He was corralled for the obligatory only-in-the-preseason in-game interview.
He was asked by former Vikings linebacker and current sideline reporter Ben Leber to respond to a quote from Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. Not knowing what the question was going to be, Leber told Peterson that Charles had made the comment that he was “the LeBron James of football.”
Leber followed up by asking Peterson who he would compare to?
Peterson could have said Walter Payton, Jim Brown or Michael Jordan – or, better yet, say that he is the Adrian Peterson of football and that’s good enough.
If he was in a bad mood, he could have said that he’s the Adrian Peterson of football and Charles wishes he was.
Instead, he said that he, too, was the LeBron of football. Not the most original answer, but it was contemporaneous. At no point did Peterson make the independent claim that he was the LeBron of football. He was fed a question and answered it.
But it didn’t take anything as inconsequential as the facts to get the media – social and professional – running with the notion that Peterson made the claim himself. The simple truth was he was thrown a curveball and didn’t have a quick-twitch response to it.
After Vikings practice Tuesday, Peterson was asked to clarify his LeBron remarks, even though most of the Twitter tsunami that followed wasn’t fully aware of the circumstances under which the question was posed.
Three days and millions of trolls later, Peterson had the opportunity, after reflection, to say that he was asked an off-the-wall question he wasn’t prepared for and could have said others want to be the Adrian Peterson of their sport and had the last laugh.
Instead, he took ownership of the LeBron response, clarifying what he respects about James.
“When I look at LeBron James, I think about just his athletic ability, God-given talent, fast, explosive – just the strength that he has – just all the intangibles,” Peterson said. “I feel like the same sense, just in a different sport. God has blessed me with those same qualities.”
Perhaps what A.P. wasn’t prepared for was that there are a significant number of social media trolls who still have a significant beef with him over the child abuse allegations that surfaced last year.
The court system believes he has paid his debt to society. The NFL has told him he has done his time and is free to return to work. But, in the vicious, anonymous world of social media, anyone with a clever vocabulary can work out his best material to an audience of strangers with knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk) reactions that blasted Peterson for the remark.
The quote has gone viral out of context and Peterson has found himself eerily amused by the vitriol in the response.
“You make that type of comparison in all fun and games,” Peterson said. “It’s so funny. You go on social media and hear people saying, ‘I can’t believe he compared himself to James. King James of football.’ It’s just like so ridiculous. It’s just casual conversation that people have. Not that big of a deal. I’m Adrian Peterson. But when you make that comparison and think about those things that I named out, I think that we’re similar.”
You have to respect his commitment to the ownership of his response. But it serves as a portent of things to come. Vikings fans can’t wait for Peterson to return to action as only he can. But there is a significant colony of trolls hiding under rocks and in the shadows ready to pounce with rushes to judgment on every word that comes out of his mouth.
Hopefully, at the Dallas game Saturday, he won’t be told that Marshawn Lynch considers himself the Stone Cold Steve Austin of football and asked who he is. If he is asked to make another comparison answer, perhaps he should give the same answer he did whenever reporters asked him if he was 100 percent following knee surgery.
Give them nothing, A.P. At this point, it may be the best approach.