NFL: Peterson aims to become second-oldest NFL rushing champ

When Eric Dickerson heard Adrian Peterson had set a goal before the season of rushing for 2,500 yards, he chuckled.After all, Dickerson holds the NFL rushing record with 2,105 yards, and the Vikings star was talking about outdoing that by nearly ...

Bruce Kluckhohn | USA Today sports Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tries to evade the grasp of Chicago Bears linebacker John Timu during Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

When Eric Dickerson heard Adrian Peterson had set a goal before the season of rushing for 2,500 yards, he chuckled.
After all, Dickerson holds the NFL rushing record with 2,105 yards, and the Vikings star was talking about outdoing that by nearly 400 yards. Dickerson, though, did admire Peterson’s spunk.
“I laughed. I thought it was funny,” Dickerson said of Peterson’s stated goal. “It’s hard to get 2,000. It’s hard to get 1,800. Everything has to go perfect. But he believed that he could, and at first you have to believe it. He’s still the best running back in the NFL, and he’s not going to say, ‘Well, I might rush for 800 yards and I’ll be lucky to get 1,000.’ “
Peterson, 30, has done a lot better than that, even if he is well short of 2,500. With two games remaining, he leads the NFL with 1,314 yards.
If Peterson can hold off Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, who has 1,305, he will become the second-oldest player to win the rushing title. The oldest was hall of famer Curtis Martin, who was 31 when he gained 1,697 for the New York Jets in 2004.
Peterson also can become just the third player 30 or older to win the crown. Hall of famer Marion Motley was 30 when he had 810 yards for Cleveland in a 12-game 1950 season.
“It would be pretty cool,” Peterson said of joining a list of top senior backs. “People put a stigma on being a 30-year-old back and I showed them this year that age doesn’t matter.”
Curtis Martin, who had to retire at 32 after suffering a knee injury in 2005, is following the rushing race closely and has a favorite to win it.
“Adrian is one of the most gifted running backs I’ve seen,” said the former Jets star. “I never had the ability that he did. I wouldn’t doubt that he wins the rushing title this year, and I hope he does. I hope he wins it next year, too. It would be no shame in losing (the record) to him.”
Peterson missed the final 15 games last season because of a child-abuse incident and then turned 30 in March. Some believed all of that would slow down the nine-year veteran.
Peterson might not be quite the same back he was during his MVP season of 2012, when he rushed for 2,097 yards to finish eight shy of Dickerson’s record. But Peterson already has surpassed his 2013 total of 1,266, which came in 14 games, and his average yards per carry of 4.6 is better than that year’s 4.5.
“They can call him a 30-year-old back, but he’s better than any young back in the league,” said Dickerson, a hall of famer who had his record season with the Los Angeles Rams in 1984. “If he stays healthy, I think that he can have another three years, maybe four as an elite back. Adrian is a guy who takes care of himself in the offseason and he puts in the work.”
Peterson is vying to be the eighth player to win three or more rushing crowns. Peterson, who led in 2008 and 2012, can become just the third back to have titles seven or more years apart.
Jim Brown, who claimed a record eight, won his first and his last titles eight years apart. Barry Sanders, who won four crowns, got his first and last seven years apart.
“It would mean a lot,” Peterson said of winning another. “I think probably no matter what age you are, being the best is what I want to do. I want to win the rushing title. Of course, that would be a big thing.”
Peterson might have a slightly easier road than Doug Martin, 26. The Vikings’ final two regular-season games are Sunday against the New York Giants (ranked No. 21 against the run) and Jan. 3 at Green Bay (No. 22). Tampa Bay finishes against Chicago (No. 26) and at Carolina (No. 6), who could be playing to complete a 16-0 regular season.
The Buccaneers, though, have been eliminated from the playoff race, and their star back has never won a rushing crown. Coach Lovie Smith said they will emphasize trying to get him one.
If you ask Curtis Martin, though, Doug Martin is the underdog.
“You look at the speed, the quickness and the power of Adrian and his size, there’s not too many people in the history of the league able to embody what he embodies,” he said. “Exactly five years after he retires, I’m sure I’ll be welcoming him into the hall of fame.”

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