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Adrian Peterson is the key to QB Bradford deal

His name was not mentioned anywhere in the trade information, but make no mistake about it. The impetus for the Minnesota Vikings' deal to acquire quarterback Sam Bradford was running back Adrian Peterson.

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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) stretches before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

His name was not mentioned anywhere in the trade information, but make no mistake about it. The impetus for the Minnesota Vikings' deal to acquire quarterback Sam Bradford was running back Adrian Peterson.

It's just that plain and simple.

Some will say, well, the Vikings are moving into a new stadium, their fan base is still disappointed over the team's drop-off a year ago, and the future of injured quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, out for the year, is in question.

All of that is true, true, true.

But canceling the season was not an option for the Vikings and apparently neither was leaving the whole operation in the hands of Shaun Hill, a 36-year-old career backup who has started just 34 games in 14 NFL seasons.

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And the reason for that: Adrian Peterson.

Peterson is 31 years old, an age when even the greatest running backs usually are declining. He's coming off a 1,485-yard season, the seventh time in nine years he exceeded 1,200 yards rushing. No one knows how many more years like that he has left, and the Vikings don't want to waste them.

There are at least four significant examples in history that explain why the Vikings were not eager to leave Peterson without a competent quarterback.

They are named Trent Dilfer/Brad Johnson, Carson Palmer/Phil Simms, Barry Sanders and Bill Parcells.

All of them played into the Vikings' decision to give up a first-round draft choice to get Bradford, who was the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, but, because of injuries, has played just two complete seasons in six years.

No. 1: The Baltimore Ravens in 2000 and the Tampa Bay Bucs two years later won the Super Bowl with quarterbacks named Dilfer and Johnson. They were both caretakers on teams with great defenses. The Vikings do not have a great defense, but they have a competent one, and with a Peterson-led offense that can control the ball, the Vikings can understandably be forgiven for thinking they can do the same thing.

No. 2: Palmer was a first overall draft pick in the NFL whose career appeared to flounder in both Cincinnati and Oakland. He wasn't happy with the Bengals, and the Raiders were still in their ugly stages when he was their quarterback. But united with a terrific offensive mind in coach Bruce Arians and outstanding receivers, Palmer has flourished in Arizona as his career ends toward the finish line. And Simms had a start to his career much like Bradford, beset by injuries. He eventually got healthy and had an extremely productive career.

No. 3: Sanders' career was much like Peterson's has been, a Hall of Fame running back marooned on a bad team in large part because the quarterback was never good enough to do his part. Sanders played in one winning playoff game in his career. Peterson has played in one winning playoff game in his career. The Vikings realize they have an all-time talent in their midst and it would be stupid not to do everything they can do try to maximize him.

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No. 4: Parcells is tight with Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota coach. You can be fairly certain they have talked more than once since the Bridgewater injury, and Parcells might have reminded Zimmer about how his Giants rode a running back, Ottis Anderson, to the Super Bowl championship in 1990 after losing Simms for the year to a late-season injury. New York's quarterback at the time was Jeff Hostetler, a journeyman, but Parcells never asked him to do much. In the Super Bowl, the Giants played ball control with Anderson, keeping possession more than 40 minutes and depriving Buffalo's high-power attack of the ball. I would expect the Vikings to try to play that way this year.

None of this means the Vikings' move is sure to work out or even that Zimmer will throw Bradford into the lineup right away. But they picked up a big, if short-term, contract, and gave up a first-round pick in 2017 and another pick in 2018, and they wouldn't have done that if they didn't have some plan for Bradford.

At minimum, you have to give Minnesota a lot of credit for trying to leverage the time remaining with Peterson in a division where the Vikings do not face an overwhelming opponent, although Green Bay remains formidable with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. History is full of teams that shut it down when they lost their quarterback and refused to roll the dice. The Vikings are taking a shot, and they deserve credit for that.

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

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