Throughout his nine-year NFL career, Adrian Peterson has never been short on confidence. He has dominated his position like few others. He was anointed as the top running back in the NFL midway through his rookie season and has never looked back.
For all of his individual success, one thing that has eluded him is a chance to play on the biggest stage of all – in the Super Bowl.
Every year, he has entered the season believing, or at least hoping, that this would be the year that would end the Minnesota Vikings Super Bowl drought. But, after coming off a season in which the Vikings have knocked Green Bay off the top spot in the NFC North, there is a legitimate chance to putting the “wait ’til next year” mantra to bed and accomplish the ultimate team goal.
“In the building, I feel like we have that vibe and that energy,” Peterson said. “People are expecting greatness from one another. That’s something that I’m able to see in practice. Guys are taking it serious and really working on getting better.”
Nobody is taking it more serious than Peterson. Despite his claims that he can play another six or seven years, the reality is that he is in the later stages of his NFL career and time is ticking on his chance to reach his ultimate goal of winning a championship.
That desire is what fuels him now. The individual numbers are all well and good, but he is focused on being the best player and teammate he can be. Early in his career, Peterson was surrounded by veteran players on both sides of the ball that were the unquestioned leaders of the team. Now he sees it as part of his job to be one of those guys.
He has always felt that he has the natural leadership skills of leading by example and working harder than anyone else on the roster. But, as time has gone by and many of the team’s outgoing leaders have aged and gone away, Peterson has seen his role with his teammates in the locker room change and evolve.
“There are different types of leaders,” Peterson said. “I feel like I’ve been a leader since I’ve been here. Now it’s being more vocal as well, not just by your performance and the way you approach practice. Guys have been able to see that and are picking up on that, but even more so now with me being more vocal as a leader.”
Part of being a vocal leader is to know when to speak up and when to take a step back. At no point has that been as true as it has been in his dealings with young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The Vikings drafted Bridgewater to be the face of the offense for the next decade and, most likely, as the man who replaces Peterson in that “face of the franchise” role.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1676015-joseph-s-fine-season-a-st... Peterson could see some of the growing pains Bridgewater has been experiencing and he has wanted him to know that they aren’t in any competition. In the modern day NFL, the quarterback is the leader of the offense, regardless of how talented the supporting cast is, and Peterson wanted to make sure Teddy knew that and that A.P. was going to be one of his strongest supporters.
“I talked to him and let him know, ‘Hey, you’re going to be our guy; you’re our quarterback. We’re going to need you to lead the team. I’m out here and I want you to play like it’s all about (you). You need to make it all about you. You touch the ball 100 percent of the time.’” Peterson said. “I think he got that. Just him being the type of person that he is, he’s adjusted to it.”
Peterson knows where Bridgewater is coming from because he lived through it. In 2009, when Brett Favre arrived in Minnesota, Peterson and rookie teammate Percy Harvin at times seemed awestruck by playing alongside a Hall of Famer that they had both grown up idolizing. Several years later, he finds himself in the same boat.
Young teammates have come up to him sheepishly introducing themselves and saying things like, “I’ve been a fan of you since middle school.” He’s learning to take those types of compliments in stride, even though he doesn’t feel old enough to be the kind of player that current teammates could have been fans of that long ago.
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“It kind of puts things in perspective for me,” Peterson said. “I remember and flash back to when I used to do that with Favre and guys that I admired coming up. When I came in, guys like Matt Birk, I was like, ‘Oh, man. This guy is older.’ He was in his 10th season then. That’s probably how some of these young guys look at me – he’s 10 years in and he’s one of the older guys. It’s all fun and I’m just taking it in stride.”
Another element of his NFL longevity is that the talking heads around the NFL have been looking for “the next Adrian Peterson.” When Peterson joined the NFL, he got anointed as “the next LaDainian Tomlinson.” But, after setting the all-time single-game rushing record midway through his first season with Tomlinson on the other sideline watching him accomplish what no other running back had done before (or since), he went from being the next L.T. to the first A.P. in a heartbeat and that hasn’t changed in nine years.
Every year, it seems, there is a new running back being given the mantle of being the next Adrian Peterson. Darren McFadden was the first and he has barely lived up to being the next Adrian Peterson that played for the Bears. However, over the last couple of years there have been a couple of serious potential usurpers to his throne – Rams 2015 rookie Todd Gurley and Cowboys 2016 rookie Ezekiel Elliott.
Peterson takes the comparisons in stride. In fact, he challenges the youngsters to do their best to be considered in his category because, at this point in his career, he is viewed as an elder statesman, but still the best at what he does.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1675796-vikings-favored-in-vast-m... “It’s a compliment, because you’re being compared to other guys,” Peterson said. “It’s never a challenge to me because nobody can challenge me better than me. I see those young guys and I motivate them. I want those guys to be the best at what they can do. Respect your elders, but at the same time, I want to be better than you. That’s how I was with L.T. I respected him to the fullest, but in my mind I wanted to be better than him. I worked to try to be better than him.”
Peterson shrugs off the notion that he is nearing the end of the line. He said he feels as good now as he has in years and that, while hitting 30 has been a brick wall for a lot of running backs, he doesn’t see himself in that category. To him, 30 was just a number last year, as 31 was just a number on his birthday in March.
Others can make a big deal out his age, Peterson said. He still loves the game and when you’re coming off the league rushing title, you don’t give the naysayers a lot of credence. If the Vikings are going to become a Super Bowl team, it likely will include a heavy dose of Peterson.
He’s not as young as he used to be and it takes a little longer to recover and heal from the beating he takes on Sundays, but he’s convinced he still has many of his best days in front of him and the Vikings are on the verge of greatness.
“I take it for what it is,” Peterson said. “But, at the end of the day, numbers don’t lie. Your performance and what you do tells its own story.”