Adrian Peterson: Best player in NFL?

LaDainian Tomlinson questioned whether Adrian Peterson was the best running back in the NFL. Brad Childress said Peterson is the best PLAYER in the NFL. The debate is likely just getting started.

On Wednesday, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson accepted his award as the 2008 FedEx Ground Player of the Year. Ironically, he was also answering questions about whether or not he is the best running back in the NFL after San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson questioned that notion.

Tomlinson took issue with Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown's assessment of Peterson as the best running back in the NFL, a statement Brown made in an issue of The Sporting News magazine when he interviewed Peterson.

"Jim Brown was telling Peterson he's the best runner he'd seen in a long time. I was sitting there reading it thinking, ‘Wow,'" Tomlinson told the Los Angeles Times. "The difference with me is you can put me out on that field and there will be nothing I can't do. I won't have to come off the field. Adrian has to come off sometimes on third down. Running routes, he's still not there yet. Great downhill runner, powerful, fast, all that stuff. … But anything on that field you want me to do — throw it, block — I can do it. That's what I pride myself on is not having any weaknesses. And that's what makes me the best back."

Vikings coach Brad Childress left little doubt where he stands on the issue.

"LaDainian is a hell of a back and he is entitled to his opinion. I'm going to tell you, my guy is the best football player in the National Football League and he is the best running back in the National Football League, and I believe that," Childress said.

Last year, Peterson led the league with 1,760 yards rushing. Tomlinson, while dealing with injuries, had 1,110 to finish 10th in the league.

Peterson downplayed the whole issue.

"I really doesn't matter. It's Jim Brown. It came out his mouth, so I could see why it would definitely touch a nerve," he said. "The only thing that I try to do is become the best complete player that I can be. That means if, during the offseason there are things that I can do to make my game better, then those are the things that I'll do."

Peterson has been working on getting better at his pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. Often times, he has been taken out of the game in favor of Chester Taylor on third downs because of Taylor's veteran experience with those aspects of the game.

"I think he has come leaps and bounds from the first day on pass protection. He has improved this year in terms of pass protection as well," Childress said.

Peterson said he has made "tremendous strides" in his ability to pass block, but Taylor is still expected to contribute heavily on third downs this season. Even so, Peterson's goals remain the same as always. When asked if he was still thinking about 2,000 yards rushing for his goal this season, he said, "That's it? 2,000? I'm thinking championship, that's my ultimate goal."

Childress said Peterson has improved as a runner, too, becoming more patient and allow the hole to open up. Peterson agreed, indicating that it took some time to realize that patience can be a good thing.

"I think that's something that had to sink into my head because it's something that you take for granted, especially when you're out there playing and you can get caught up in the game and forget about the little things," he said, crediting running backs coach Eric Bieniemy for his persistence. "Thanks to E.B. and his coaching, he's definitely got it installed in my head that patience is the key."

As to where Peterson stacks up historically among NFL running backs, Childress was leaving that one alone.

"The only thing I would say is this: His body of work is just a few years. So I think a guy like LaDainian, whose been doing it for a little bit longer, and doing it very well for a long period of time, the staying power is important as well," Childress said.

Peterson finds the whole debate amusing.

"I kind of find it hilarious," he said. "It can be some of the smallest things to me that get blown out of proportion and you get different people to act on it or they respond on it. They've got their different opinions about this or about that, they just get carried away, so it's kind of funny."

NOTES

  • NFL.com editor Vic Carucci weighed in on the debate and left no doubt where he stands. "Sorry, LaDainian Tomlinson, but you've got it wrong. Adrian Peterson is, in fact, the best running back in the NFL. You're not. Not any longer," Carucci wrote in his take on the topic.

  • Peterson's award as the FedEx Ground Player of the Year allowed FedEx to donate $25,000 to the SafeKids Foundation, which in turn put the money to use to help improve safety in front of Plymouth Middle School, which his adding 300 children this year. Peterson also had four FedEx Ground Player of the Week awards last year, which raised another $1,000 each.

    "I know how much I inspire those youngsters. You've just got to love kids. Adrian does love the kids, All Day," Peterson said, referencing his nickname. "That's one thing I always dreamed about, not only making it to this level and being able to live my dream, but be able to make a difference with the community too."

  • Peterson said that cutting down on his commercial appearances helped this offseason. "When you're not flying from the West Coast to East Coast, it gives you more time to just sit back and relax a little more and focus on some of those little things … pay more attention to some of the small things that really make a difference out there on the field," he said.

  • Quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who played for the Houston Texans for three years before coming to the Vikings in a trade in February, said Monday night's preseason game felt like a home game for him. "Being I hadn't played a home game because I didn't play last week (against the Kansas City Chiefs), it sort of felt like a home," said Rosenfels, who had family and friends in attendance at Reliant Stadium.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this hot topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.



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