Adrian Peterson clearly still has eye on all-time rushing mark

Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images /

Adrian Peterson has a plan to play a few more years, with an obvious eye on finishing as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

Adrian Peterson has long had inflated goals for himself, but there’s something to be said for being 35 years old and still being employed as an NFL running back. As proven by his quick return from torn ACL to rush for 2,000 yards and win league MVP in 2012, nothing can be ruled out for him.

It’s not news that Peterson intends to play as long as he can. But he spoke to TMZ recently, and made his hopes more concrete.

“Man, why not four more years?” “Why not? I don’t want to ever be in a position where I look back and say, ‘Man, I should have played two more years, I should of played another year.’ I want to enjoy it. I’m still chasing a championship. You know, I can still play the game at a high level.”

Four more years would be through the 2023 season, which would be Peterson’s age-38 campaign. Running backs this side of Frank Gore don’t play close to that long.

But Peterson pretty clearly has his eye on a goal and target he has mentioned in the past. Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing mark.

Could Adrian Peterson actually become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher?

Peterson will enter the 2020 season fifth on the all-time rushing list with 14,216 yards. Smith finished with 18,355 yards. So Peterson needs 4,140 yards to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

If Peterson hadn’t lost big chunks of the 2014 and 2016 season to league punishment and a knee injury respectively, he would have a better chance to passing Smith. A lackluster 2017 campaign, split between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, was also not helpful.

Peterson would have to average 1,035 rushing yards per year over the next four seasons to pass Smith. He rushed for 1,042 yards in his first season for the Redskins in 2018, on 251 carries (fifth-most in the league). It’s safe to say he won’t be getting 250-plus carries again in any team’s ideal scenario. As long as Derrius Guice and other backs are healthy in Washington this year, anything close to last year’s 211 carries would be a big ask.

If Peterson were to be close to passing Smith at the end of the 2023 season, playing one more season would presumably be on the table. That also assumes a team would sign a 39-year old running back, for reasons beyond the attention gained from having Peterson become the league’s all-time rusher in its uniform. A further assumption is that Peterson avoids significant injury, and even has an opportunity to play four more seasons.

Plans and goals are nice, but Peterson’s chance to pass Smith has faded pretty much every year since 2014. He’s unlikely to play four more seasons, let alone get enough work to average more than 1,000 yards per.

Never say never when it comes to Peterson. But the the percentage he becomes the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, even if he’d rather not acknowledge it, is Blutarsky-esque 0.0.

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