Adrian Peterson isn’t quite “All Day” anymore. More like “Some of the Day.” But that’s fine, because the NFL’s second-oldest running back has put in a lot of full days at the office.
Peterson signed with the Lions ahead of the 2020 season to join a backfield with two young rushers, D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. He was coming off 1,940 yards across the past two seasons for Washington, but his move to Detroit signaled a move to more of a mentorship and secondary role. Injuries to the young backs has meant AP has gotten the opportunity to keep chugging, though, continuing to move up the NFL’s all-time leaderboards and cement an already rock-solid Hall of Fame case.
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How old is Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson was born on March 21, 1985, making him 35 years old and the second-oldest running back in the NFL behind 37-year old Frank Gore. Peterson was the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma. The top two selections in that draft? JaMarcus Russell and Calvin Johnson.
Peterson broke the 1,000-yard barrier in his rookie season (and each of his first four seasons in the NFL. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2018 for Washington, meaning he surpassed that mark in both his first season in the league and his 12th. Gore’s first and last 1,000-yard seasons had only a 10-year gap. The same is true of Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.
The only running back among the NFL’s top-15 all-time rushers to equal that feat by Peterson is Franco Harris, who broke 1,000 yards as a rookie for Pittsburgh in 1972 and did it again for the Steelers in 1983. That puts Peterson right near the top in terms of running-back longevity combined with effectiveness, and his 898 yards following his latest 1,000-yard season smashed the the 170 Harris ran for following his 1983 campaign.
Peterson’s violent, athletic, cutting style of running hasn’t left him without injuries. He tore an ACL, MCL and meniscus in 2011 and tore his meniscus again in 2016. There’ve been a number of other ankle and foot injuries along the way. But that makes what Peterson has done ever more impressive.
Despite showing the usual signs of running back aging and dealing with the injuries that come with it, Peterson hasn’t stopped being a useful NFL running back. At the end of the 2020 season, Peterson spoke with reporters and explained why he’s kept on running:
“I’m going to keep going,” Peterson told reporters, per WashingtonFootball.com. “My body is feeling good. I’m still loving the game. Obviously I can still play and perform at a high level. Why walk away from it now? So, I’m going to keep going.”
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Will Adrian Peterson make the Hall of Fame?
There’s almost no doubt that Peterson will have a bust in Canton, Ohio, someday as a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Midway through the 2020 season, Peterson ranks fifth all-time in rushing yards, and if he keeps playing one more year, he’ll likely pass Barry Sanders for fourth all-time. Aside from the still-active Gore, the top-16 rushers all-time have all made the Hall of Fame. Peterson also sits fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns, with an outside shot of catching Marcus Allen in third. The top seven players on that list are all Hall of Famers, too.
While it’s on the decline, Peterson’s career yards per rush attempt (4.7) total is tied with O.J. Simpson and better than Terrell Davis, Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton and Marshall Faulk, among others. The fact that AP still is so high on a list of rushing averages is that much more impressive considering that the more seasons he plays on the wrong side of 30, the more that number is dropping. Peterson hasn’t rushed for 4.7 yards per carry or better since 2012, yet that’s still his career mark.
The main playing knock against Peterson would be that his teams weren’t always winners. In Minnesota, he never reached a Super Bowl and only played in one conference championship game (Peterson did run for 122 yards and three scores in the 2010 NFC title game before a back-breaking Brett Favre interception). But winning and losing didn’t often come down to Peterson. When healthy, he showed up and was the biggest worry for NFC North defenses during his time with the Vikings.
Peterson’s largest red mark comes from a one-year suspension he served in 2014 after being charged with child abuse. That’s the only thing that could keep him out of t