Adrian Peterson wants to play till age 40, break Emmitt Smith’s NFL rushing record

By Matt Fitzgerald
Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson (28) reacts before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Free-agent NFL running back Adrian Peterson is aiming for an NFL career that lasts until he’s 40 years old, and includes an all-time rushing title and a Super Bowl ring.

Peterson spoke about his aspirations as he hits the open market during the 2021 offseason in search of a new team.

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Adrian Peterson aiming high despite late stage of NFL career

In an interview with TMZ.com, the 35-year-old Peterson — who turns 36 in March — commented on where he sees himself in the next half-decade or so:

“I want to live to be a 40-year-old back out there rushing for 1,500 yards and amazing people still. […] I’m going to keep playing, trying to chase the championship,” Peterson says, “and, God’s willing, within the process of doing that, I’m able to catch Emmitt and pass him.”

Adrian Peterson on NFL future

The age of 30 is usually viewed as the point where NFL running backs start to decline, but Peterson continues to prove he’s just built differently than most ball-carriers.

It seemed like Peterson’s career could’ve been over as early as 2017, when he lasted only four games with the New Orleans Saints before playing six more contests that year for the Arizona Cardinals.

But during the 2018 campaign, Peterson improbably found the football fountain of youth as a member of the now-dubbed Washington Football Team. He ran for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, proving he could still get the job done. He lasted one more year in the nation’s capital before suiting up with the Detroit Lions this past season, rushing for 604 yards and seven scores.

Although he’s taken a journeyman’s route around the league since his long, phenomenal tenure with the Minnesota Vikings, that doesn’t seem to deter Peterson, who still has plenty to play for in his mind.

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How Adrian Peterson can accomplish all his ambitious goals

How Adrian Peterson can accomplish all his ambitious goals
Dec 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson (28) talks with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) after the game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Not re-signing with the Lions is a good way for Peterson to get on the proper path toward championship contention. Running backs generally aren’t the most expensive position, and since Peterson is likely to want to play anywhere he can contend for a Super Bowl, he won’t be the priciest free-agent option.

Playoff-caliber rosters also have a fair share of veterans on them that command a good chunk of change, which is made all the more complex by the lowered 2021 salary cap.

In order to catch Smith for the NFL’s all-time rushing lead, Peterson needs to go to a team that’ll give him a decent timeshare in the backfield while also being effective enough as an offense to open up running lanes for him.

With 14,820 yards rushing to date, Peterson still trails Smith by 3,535 yards. Even three seasons of 1,000-plus yards won’t be enough, and that’s asking a lot for an aging back — even someone with Peterson’s freakish abilities.

What’s even trickier about Peterson’s aspirations to eclipse Smith’s rushing total is that he may need a series of one-year contracts as his career winds down, and still needs to be behind strong offensive lines to get the job done.

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Some suitors that come to mind right away for AP are the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Rams.

The situation in Tampa Bay is unclear when it comes to the running backs who are meant to complement legendary quarterback Tom Brady. Playoff hero Leonard Fournette is a free agent and may be out of the Bucs’ price range. Ronald Jones is entering a contract year. Rising sophomore Ke’Shawn Vaughn is largely unproven. There’s a potential opening there for Peterson to be Tampa Bay’s most cost-effective veteran option for the next season or two.

As for Green Bay, Peterson could return to the NFC North division where he shined for many years despite subpar quarterback play and get to play alongside reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers on a team that’s gone to back-to-back NFC titles games.

Finally, Peterson is the type of splash player the Rams would love to bring in. All their backs are really young, but Cam Akers is beginning to distinguish himself as a potential featured back. Nevertheless, Akers’ quickness and Peterson’s power would give LA’s new-look offense led by Matthew Stafford a great lightning-and-thunder tailback tandem.

Any of these situations could really help Peterson at least achieve the goal of a Lombardi Trophy. How he gets to No. 1 on the all-time rushing list largely depends on his longevity and opportunities to carry the rock.

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