Whether fans like it or not, the Vikings former star running back, Adrian Peterson will not be with the team in the 2017 season. This was confirmed in March when General Manager, Rick Spielman told the media, “with us signing [Latavius] Murray, Adrian will move on elsewhere.”
Where Peterson will end up next season is still not certain as the 32- year-old running back has struggled to stay healthy in the second half of his career. It is fair to believe Peterson’s best years may be behind him, but as he departs the Vikings it’s worth looking back at how much he achieved with the team.
In 2007, after a standout performance at Oklahoma, the Vikings drafted Peterson with the 7th overall pick in the NFL draft. The young running back was confident in himself despite having dealt with injuries in college. He would tell the Star Tribune at the time, “I want to be the best player to ever play this game.” His rookie year would be nothing short of explosive. Against the Chicago Bears on October 14, 2007, Peterson catapulted himself into the national spotlight when he rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns. His 53-yard kickoff return in the game’s final minutes set up the Vikings for a game-winning field goal. Even with the underperforming quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, Peterson gave fans a feeling that he could carry the entire team. On November 4, 2007, Peterson put up an NFL record of 296 yards against the Chargers. He would cap off his freshman season by receiving the Rookie of the Year Award.
The excitement Peterson brought to the NFL continued in 2008 as he had a career high in carries. The Vikings continually turned to Peterson to lead them to victory, even as the league grew to have a greater focus on passing. In 2009, Peterson had the opportunity to play deep into the playoffs alongside future Hall of Famer, Brett Favre. Even when some worried the offense would shift away from Peterson with Favre under center, Peterson still remained a prominent part of the offense. However, an injury in December of 2011 would leave Peterson with a torn ACL and MCL. Once again, critics worried he would never be as successful as he once was.
Rather than slow down, Peterson sped up in 2012 as he came back from surgery. With 2,097 yards on the season, Peterson was carried off the field in the final game against the Packers. He was just 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. The spectacular year set Peterson up to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year, as well as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.
2012 helped Peterson make a case for the claims he had in his rookie season. Even while the league watched Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady win five Super Bowls, Peterson never had a mere Super Bowl appearance. Yet it’s important to remember who Peterson’s supporting cast was. Over the last ten years, he played with a carousel of quarterbacks and a who’s who of offensive linemen.
Commonly, Peterson lined up against seven men in the box, which only made gaining yards tougher. After all, there is nothing defensive coordinators fear about Christian Ponder’s arm. Still, Peterson came a first down away from breaking the NFL rushing record. Maybe a decent case can be made to say Peterson is at least among one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
It will be disappointing to see the man who embodied Vikings football for the last decade depart, but it is only for the best. Peterson’s off the field issues in 2014 and continual struggle with injuries left little motivation for the Vikings to offer the former star a new contract. The team will continue to move on and change without him.