Adrian Peterson has an elevated opinion of himself, but he has left behind all logic by publicly maintaining the biggest of his career goals.
If not for the Washington Redskins suffering a rash of injuries to their running backs during the preseason, Adrian Peterson would probably still be unemployed. But he will start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, and get a fair amount of the early-down work.
Peterson needs just 37 yards to pass Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, and crack the top-10. So if things go as planned on Sunday, that will happen. Tony Dorsett (12,739 career rushing yards) would be within reach this year, and a 1,000-yard season would push Peterson past Eric Dickerson (13,259 yards) for eighth all-time.
Peterson has set lofty goals before, and he changed the expectations for a running back coming off a torn ACL by topping 2,000 yards on the ground in 2012. But he’s sticking to the loftiest career goal he has ever set — passing Emmitt Smith as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
"Who knows? I’ve seen crazier things happen,” Peterson said. “In my mind, that’s a goal I’d still like to reach. I know it would take a heckuva feat to do that especially how the NFL treats older backs. God willing, I’m able to continue to change that view and have opportunities to come out and play."
Peterson led the league in rushing with 1,485 yards in 2015, at 30 years old. But that’s the only full season he has played in the last four, due to league discipline for an off-field issue and injuries. At 6,079 yards shy of Smith’s record, Peterson would have to average better than that 2015 campaign for four seasons to become the league’s all-time leading rusher. He’s also 33 years old, and has lingered without a job a fair amount into each of last two offseasons.
The history of 30-plus year old running backs declining rapidly is well-known, and those that have defied that for a season or two generally fell off quickly and even more dramatically afterward (see Curtis Martin in particular). Peterson is one of those examples, but he still sees himself in a 2012 light when no one else does.