Whether Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill takes the snaps in Minnesota’s season opener, Adrian Peterson will line up behind yet another starting quarterback.
The count will reach a dozen on Sunday at Tennessee, the dawn of his 10th year in the league, and Peterson didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the difficulty of enduring so many switches throughout his career. Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending injury prompted the latest one .
”That definitely affects me,” Peterson said. ”Maybe I have to do more. Maybe I don’t have to do as much.”
Aside from Brett Favre’s spectacular performance in 2009, Peterson has almost always had to do more.
From Tarvaris Jackson to Kelly Holcomb to Brooks Bollinger to Gus Frerotte to Donovan McNabb to Joe Webb to Christian Ponder to Josh Freeman to Matt Cassel, the Vikings have failed to find a long-term solution at the sport’s most important position.
Bridgewater was on his way, poised for a significant step forward in year three after a sparkling preseason, but the damage done to the left knee of the former first-round draft pick during a freak occurrence in practice last week has now muddied his future.
Bradford will ultimately be the starter this season, whether this week or next , but his late arrival and spotty NFL success make him a less-desirable alternative to Bridgewater.
Thus, once again, the Vikings will be looking to their stalwart running back to lead their offense.
”Any time I go into a season or a game, I want to be that guy that’s a difference-maker,” Peterson said. ”That won’t change.”
Bradford was on the roster as a redshirt at Oklahoma in 2006, Peterson’s last year in college. He said on Thursday that he wished Bradford would’ve played some for the Sooners that season ”to help us out a little bit.”
Bradford eventually won the Heisman Trophy before becoming the first overall pick by St. Louis in 2010. Peterson, naturally, was excited to find out last week about the trade that brought Bradford to Minnesota from Philadelphia.
”I tip my hat to our GM, Rick Spielman, doing a great job bringing a guy in that can contribute,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he sent a text message to Spielman after Bridgewater was hurt, offering his opinion on potential replacements.
”He told me, `Hey. We’re going to do what’s best for the team, so that’s the last thing you have to worry about,”’ Peterson said. ”And I was like, `All right.”’
After leading the league with 1,485 yards rushing in 2015, following a nearly year-long absence amid the child abuse case involving his young son, Peterson turned 31. His age has become as much of a motivator as any factor, given the evidence pointing against post-30 productivity in the NFL.
”He’s looked great, like he always does,” coach Mike Zimmer said. ”He’s got acceleration, the vision. All those things look exactly the same to me. He’s an unbelievable worker in the offseason.”
Since his suspension in 2014, Peterson has described himself often as becoming more of a family man who laments missing out on time with his children.
He said this week he could see himself playing another two, five or seven years, depending on his feelings about the work-life balance, though the interest of a team continuing to pay him will of course influence his career length.
For now, the focus is on the Titans. When the Vikings fell flat in last season’s opener at San Francisco, a 20-3 loss to the 49ers, Peterson had only 31 yards on 10 rushes. He said his condition in that game, his first in 372 days, was substandard. ”That’s the big difference, going into this week. My legs are fresh. I’m making sure that I get my conditioning in, so I’ll be able to run all day,” Peterson said with a smile, referencing his nickname.
”I’ve been doing that,” he said, ”getting my mind ready for all that this week.”