It’s hard to argue that any player has meant more to the Minnesota Vikings organization than Adrian Peterson since the team drafted him back in 2007. He has been the face of the franchise for nearly 10 years now and went through multiple seasons where he almost single-handedly made his team relevant.
From his first game against the Atlanta Falcons it was easy to tell that Peterson was a special player when he rushed for over 100 yards and caught a swing pass out of the backfield and took it 60 yards for a touchdown. He also broke the single-game rushing record as a rookie, recording 30 rushes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
He has helped lead the team to the playoffs on multiple occasions, was just eight yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record in 2012 and was even able to win the MVP award that season.
Peterson has been a part of some poor Vikings teams during his time in Minnesota, but he was always able to make them relevant. Now, as he approaches a decade in the NFL, the questions have started to arrive of when he will retire and what will the team look like once he is gone? Vikings general manager Rick Spielman isn’t quite ready to think about that, though.
“I think Adrian is still a very productive running back in this league,” he said. “I mean, he won the rushing title again this year and it’s amazing the stamina and the physical specimen that he still is. But at some point everybody has to retire and I don’t know when that point is (for him). Adrian may defy the odds and play until he is 50. I don’t know.”
Peterson has defied the odds throughout his career, but Spielman is right – sooner or later ever player has to retire. Fans would surely like to see Peterson go out on top and be able to ride off into the sunset, after all he has done for the organization, but this is the NFL and not all players are able to do that.
Sometimes injuries can end a player’s career, and at a position such as running back injuries are simply part of the game. Peterson has already suffered one torn ACL in his career and at the age of 30 – will be 31 in March – it is hard to say if he would be able to come back from another one.
While it is hard to imagine life after Peterson, the Vikings have been putting players in place to prepare themselves, and it showed during the 2014 season when he was forced to miss 15 regular-season games.
“Matt Asiata came in and has always done a good job in his role. And we drafted Jerick McKinnon, who when he has an opportunity to get the ball in his hands, he shows that he can be a very explosive playmaker as well,” Spielman said. “So when you’re building a roster, regardless of whether you have an Adrian Peterson or not, you’ve always got to anticipate the potential disaster of a player going down because of injury and are you still going to be an effective football team even if he is not there.”
The Vikings also have a young quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, who will likely be the new face of the franchise once Peterson is no longer on the team’s roster. When that will be, though, is hard to tell. But at this point in Peterson’s career it is safe to say it will be sooner rather than later.