Do you remember watching Emmitt Smith with the Cardinals? Slow and ineffective. Stephen Jackson with the Falcons? Unable to stay healthy or make a play. Jerry Rice getting cut from the Broncos? Willlie Mayes unable to run with the Giants? Shaq sitting on the end of the bench in Boston? Brett Favre limping off the field in Minnesota?
The Minnesota Vikings decided to not pick up their option on the greatest runningback of his generation, Adrian Peterson. The man who came within spitting distance of the single season rushing record is now a free agent. But is that man the man who is a free agent, or is it just a ghost of his former self who now can offer his services to the highest bidder?
I grew up a Packer fan. Still am. Its hard to love a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Very hard. Yet there have been a few, John Randle for sure, when Randall Cunningham resurrected his career there you couldn’t help but root for him, and there was Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson. They ripped your heart out again and again but you had no choice but to admit their greatness. As someone who played the running back position I have always loved great running backs. AP was one of the greatest. He hit a hole like it owed him money? Only Bo Jackson was more voracious exploding through the hole. His speed and power was a lethal mix. If you were fast enough to catch him, you would pay for it for weeks afterword in your healing bruises. Does that Adrian still exist?
We can look at his stats from last year. 1.9 yards per carry. 24 yards per game. 3 healthy games. Its more then just the stats. Adrian is 31 and will turn 32 before training camps open. The number of successful running backs in their 30s in the NFL is equal to the number of top American male tennis players.
Runningbacks in todays NFL fall off the cliff so suddenly and soundly. Lets look at a few. Shaun Alexander, 2005 he won the MVP with 1,800+ rushing yards and a then record 27 tds. In 2006 he rushed for 896 yards and 7 tds. Clinton Portis, 2008 1,487 yards rushing, 2009 494 yards rushing. Ahman Green 2006 1,059 yards rushing, 2007 260 Yards rushing. Steven Jackson 2012 1,045 Yards, 2013 543 yards. Running backs skills erode quickly and irrevocably as their body loses its ability to take the equivalency of 20 medium speed car accidents a day.
I will never hate on someone for making money, if someone wants to pay AP millions of dollars just to wear their jersey, I can’t hate him for taking it. I for one hope he doesn’t. I hope he cares enough about his body and his ability to walk for the rest of his life, I hope he cares enough about us remembering him as the unstoppable beast that outran lbs and ran over defensive backs, not as the old man who can’t break a tackle or outrun anyone. There is something sad about watching those you idolized when they cannot play anymore still trying.
I don’t want to remember Adrian as a washed up old man, I don’t want him to be Willie Mayes trying to catch a fly ball and failing. I want him to be that unstoppable villain that haunted my football nightmares, not a sad shell of himself. So Adrian please consider a nice plush network analyst job, maybe do color broadcast for games. Its time to walk away gracefully and start your next stage of your career.
J.Russell Zinn is a retired Jedi Knight and a professional beach bum. He has never left home without his towel. He has never met a buffalo wing he hasn’t fallen in love with and hopes someday to successfully replace his blood with tequila. He has been diagnosed with extreme obsession with football and basketball, and vaguely remembers baseball from childhood.