He is six years from age 40, and seven removed from his NFL MVP season, but Adrian Peterson — still in the business of defying time at age 34 — mostly speaks of retirement from football as some far-off concept.
When that day comes, however, Peterson has no doubt about how he will step away from the NFL.
“This is where I started; this is where it’s going to come to an end, as well,” Peterson said Sunday as he sat on bleachers at Hopkins High School during his first youth football camp in Minnesota, his two children who live in the Twin Cities standing nearby. “People ask me all the time, and they keep throwing me off, like, ‘Where would I retire? A Saint, a Cardinal or a Redskin?’ It’s like, ‘No, I’m going to retire a Viking.’ I was here a decade — some great memories, some everlasting friends. I’m just forever indebted to the state of Minnesota. I’ll definitely be retiring a Viking, for sure.”
Whatever unrest there might have been — from the events during and after Peterson’s 2014 suspension, or from the injury-plagued 2016 that precipitated his departure from Minnesota — seems mostly gone now.
As Peterson tossed footballs to campers Sunday, he seemed at peace with his relationship to the state where he achieved his greatest NFL moments to date.
“I believe I gave my heart to the state of Minnesota and my fans, anytime I stepped on the field,” he said. “It’s not like I left on bad terms, like we fell out. Things just didn’t work; they went their way, I went my way. It was just kind of mutually beneficial, for me and for them.”
The questions about whether the Vikings’ career leading rusher could produce into his 30s are gone, too; Peterson answered many of those in 2018 by becoming only the fifth running back in NFL history age 33 or older to rush for 1,000 yards. He waited until Aug. 20 to sign with the Redskins last year; the team gave him a new two-year, $8 million contract at the beginning of free agency this year.
According to Sharp Football, 73% of Washington’s run plays came with the quarterback under center last season, providing Peterson the means he has long preferred to receive handoffs. He had seven games with at least 19 carries — his most since his last rushing title in 2015 — for a team that led the NFC East before quarterback Alex Smith suffered a compound leg fracture in November.
Peterson will play with either Case Keenum or rookie Dwayne Haskins at quarterback this season, and he sounded optimistic Sunday about the Redskins’ prospects. He is scheduled to return to U.S. Bank Stadium for the second time as a visitor on Oct. 24, for a Thursday night game loaded with subplots.
“This go-round, with the offense that we have, it’s going to be one of those games where I see myself getting 20 carries-plus,” he said. “The most important thing is getting a ‘W,’ but going up against those guys, this is one of the top defenses in the NFL. That’s what I’m most excited about, going up against Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr, [Eric] Kendricks, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph — that’s going to be fun.”
Regardless of what Peterson might hear from Vikings fans that night, he has seen enough to know his relationship with them isn’t in doubt.
“I still receive so much love [from Vikings fans],” he said. “This was my home for 10 years, and I have two beautiful children up here, so I’m here from time to time anyway. [Holding the camp] is to just be like, ‘Hey, I haven’t forgotten about you guys.’ ”