Vikings' Peterson ponders harsh realities of NFL business
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson does not let a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a 29th birthday slow him down. So why would he worry about a bunch of sports writers speculating that an unfriendly salary cap figure may cause him to be released before the team opens its new stadium in 2016?
Because that is his own reality check.
Peterson talked with USA Today this week about the reality that comes with playing in the NFL, regardless of one’s star status. He should know, since he watched the Vikings trade Percy Harvin and allowed Jared Allen to walk via free agency in back-to-back offseasons.
“If that’s going younger or trying to save money, that’s what it boils down to, no matter what type of talent you are,” Peterson said. “It’s really the unfortunate part of the business, but I’m blessed to still be around, and hopefully, it doesn’t happen to me one day. If it does, then, oh well. I’ll go on and do something different with my career.”
Peterson is the only running back in the league with a salary cap figure of at least $10 million. After next season, the Vikings could release him without taking on any dead money from a salary cap figure that will have ballooned to $17 million.
Of course, what few people seem to realize is Peterson also could have his contract redone with a signing bonus that would maintain the compensation level while lowering the cap figure. So it’s not exactly an either/or situation the Vikings face with Peterson in a year or two.
Assuming he maintains his career-long level of production, Peterson has a hard time picturing the Vikings releasing him.
“I think the organization would take a heavy hit — for real — more so from the fan base,” Peterson told USA Today. “I don’t think it would be like a LeBron (James) situation where they’re burning my jersey, this, that and the other. They might be doing (the opposite) and not buying some season tickets.”
After Thursday’s final minicamp practice, Peterson was asked to react to another running back claiming to be the best running back in the league.
Chris Johnson used to be that running back. Now, it’s LeSean McCoy.
“It really don’t bother me,” Peterson said. “Since I’ve been in the league, every year there’s been a guy that’s better than me. When I came in I had the same mentality. I’m the best, just try to put in the work and go out there and prove it.
“I understand where he’s coming from. I play this game for one reason and that’s to be the best, obviously to win a championship, but personally to be the best player. So I love his mentality.
“You are what you think, but you’ve got to put in the work as well. You think that you’re the second-best, you’re going to remain in that position. But he’s going to have to work extremely hard to surpass me.”
Peterson ran for 2,097 yards less than a year after suffering a torn ACL. So, yeah, he thinks he’s kind of unique. And that goes for his approach to turning 30 next offseason.
“It’s the same thing I thought when they say ACL, you’ll never come back from it,” Peterson said. “It is what is. It doesn’t apply to me. I have a totally different mindset and mindframe, so I’ll just stay in my lane and let everybody else say what they have to say. Because it’s just the way it is.
“So I don’t really get into it and try to prove anything to people. I just go out there and control what I can control and go out there and try to perform every year.”
Asked what age applies to him, Peterson said, “Well, I was talking to (former quarterback Brett)Favre. Forty sounds a good number.”
Peterson also was asked where he should rank when it comes to the NFL Network’s Top 100.
“One,” he said. “I feel like I’m the best. Peyton will be one, of course. But, yeah, one.
“I’d be one still. 1B.”
Take a close look at Peterson this offseason and you’ll see a guy who understands how well other great backs — Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson to name two — have performed in Norv Turner’s offenses. Coming off groin surgery, Peterson looks as fit and trim as ever and is as eager as ever despite being upset initially by the firing of Leslie Frazier and most of his coaching staff after last season.
“He’s an ultimate pro to me,” said Turner, the team’s offensive coordinator. “He’s come in here and he understands that there’s a change. I think he’s taking the approach that we as coaches took. You do have to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. It’s new, you have to put time in, and he’s done all of those things. (Wednesday), he was outstanding and I think that’s what happens.”
It’s also clear that Turner will at least try to use Peterson as a receiver out of the backfield more than any other coach has during Peterson’s career. Others have tried as well, but Peterson never has looked comfortable catching the ball.
Turner said that’s not what he has seen this offseason.
“He’s got good hands,” Turner said. “I think he’s comfortable with the routes that we would ask him to run. I think he’s intrigued by it, but you would have to ask him. I think he’s doing really well with it. It’s certainly not the lead part of what we’re doing.
“We threw a screen to him that was as nicely set up as you could ask for and the linemen got out in front. If we can get him in space like that throughout a game, throughout the season it will help all of us.”