Can Adrian Peterson find his groove in the Desert?
By: Ben Greenberger
Adrian Peterson isn’t the first great player to disappear into obscurity in the desert. He isn’t even the first running back. Following the act of Emmitt Smith and Edgerrin James, Peterson, 32, has been traded to the Arizona Cardinals, ending the five week experiment with the New Orleans Saints.
The Cardinals, who lost star running back David Johnson for the season in the first game, are turning to Peterson to save the offense in a division that’s still up for grabs. Arizona sits at 2-3, a game behind the Rams and Seahawks, both with roster questions. But the Cardinals are trying to recreate the younger years of great players. Unless the heat makes players feel younger, the Cardinals are offering Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Carson Palmer nothing besides a nice retirement home.
Peterson hit the age-30 barrier in 2015. Turning 30 usually is a death sentence for running backs, but Peterson ran for 1,485 yards and 11 TDs, leading the league in both categories. The next season, Peterson tore his meniscus in the season opener. It doesn’t seem that he ever fully recovered, even though the greats like him often have supernatural healing powers or other insane ways to stay a few steps ahead of the league. After the the torn meniscus, the Minnesota Vikings announced they would not pick up Peterson’s option, making him a free agent.
The great players usually are also great because they make the right decisions. Peterson did not, signing a two year, $7M deal with the Saints this offseason. New Orleans still had Peterson’s predecessor, fellow Heisman winner Mark Ingram, on the roster, as well as Peterson’s replacement, Alvin Kamara, who they used a third round pick on in 2017. Almost immediately after joining the Saints, Peterson expressed regret, and even got into a sideline shouting match with head coach Sean Payton in the middle of a Monday night game. He went from being a focal point of the Vikings’ offense to an afterthought overnight. In four games, Peterson had 27 carries for 81 yards, numbers he would post on a bad afternoon in Minnesota.
The feud between Payton and Peterson became public and then toxic, as both exchanged verbal jabs. Peterson claimed he did not sign up for seven carries per game. Payton told reporters that Peterson was made clear of his small role upon signing. This morning, Peterson expressed elation upon learning of his trade to Arizona, a team beyond his repair. It’s fair to assume the elation was directed more towards leaving New Orleans.
As for the Cardinals, they get the guy they passed on in 2007 to take Levi Brown in a draft that contained at least five future Hall of Fame inductees. If Peterson produces, it would come as a shock to the informed sports community. If his rapid decline continues, it wouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s had a great career. Don’t be surprised if this is where it ends.