Adrian Peterson, the greatest running back in Vikings history, has taken his share of Lambeau Lumps, going 2-6-1 at Green Bay alongside quarterbacks named Brooks Bollinger, Tarvaris Jackson, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Teddy Bridgewater and, of course, his favorite, Brett Favre.
Sam Bradford would be the seventh quarterback to play alongside Peterson at Lambeau Field when the Vikings (7-7) face the Packers (8-6) on Christmas Eve. But first things first. Peterson said he needs to get his surgically-repaired right knee feeling well again after suffering “a couple of nicks” Sunday when he returned from injured reserve to play 12 snaps in a 34-6 loss to the Colts.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Peterson said after sitting out Wednesday’s practice. “Resting up. … See how it feels. We’ll address [his playing status] when the time comes.”
Peterson, also listed Wednesday on the injury report with a groin injury, said he wants to play in part because the Vikings aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. Their chances are minuscule and could disappear Saturday even with a win if Tampa Bay beats the Saints in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, the underlying story line is Peterson’s future with the team. He has missed 11 games, been out of sync with the offense in three games and carries an $18 million price tag for 2017. The logical presumption is Peterson will be released because there would be no salary cap hit for the team and Peterson doesn’t appear likely to accept less money to stay in Minnesota.
So, Adrian, is there any part of you that feels this is your final opportunity to play at Lambeau Field as a Viking?
“No,” he said. “No. Not at all.”
Asked if it was important for him to play again this season so that he and the Vikings can judge whether they still have a future together, Peterson said, “I wouldn’t think so. I’ve been here for 10 years and I think I’ve done some OK things. So I don’t know. You’d have to ask the other side that question. But, for me, I really don’t feel like I have anything to prove.”
Asked if he feels he should return as an $18 million player, Peterson said, “I’m not really going to get into the contract talk and all that. I’m just worried about getting healthy and finishing out the season.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t in the mood to speculate on Peterson’s future.
“He’s under contract,” Zimmer said.
Reminded the team could release Peterson without any financial ramifications, Zimmer said, “We can let anybody go.” Asked if he thinks Peterson is worth $18 million, Zimmer said, “I don’t know. We’ll have to see. I’m not in charge of the money.”
Whether Saturday is his last game or simply the next game at Lambeau Field as a Viking, the Border Battle has been a struggle for Peterson.
He was a 22-year-old rookie when he made his Lambeau debut on Nov. 11, 2007. The Vikings, with Bollinger at quarterback, lost 34-0 as Peterson ran for 45 yards on 11 carries before suffering his first NFL injury (knee). He missed the next two games.
Amazingly, Bollinger’s 65.5 passer rating in that game is the third highest by a quarterback playing alongside Peterson in the nine games at Lambeau. Jackson (59.0), Webb (54.9 as an emergency starter in a wild-card playoff loss), Ponder (52.3 and 41.9), Bridgewater (45.7) and even Favre (50.4 in 2010) did worse.
Peterson is averaging 105.4 yards per game and 5.0 per carry with no lost fumbles at Lambeau. He rushed for 67 yards and won 20-13 to clinch the division last year, but he’s also lost while rushing for 210 yards alongside Ponder in 2012.
Ponder posted a 103.9 passer rating while Peterson ran 32 times for 146 yards in the 26-26 tie in 2013. Favre topped that statistically and magically when the Packers legend returned to Lambeau to play the Packers for the first time on Nov. 1, 2009.
With Peterson running 25 times for 97 yards and a touchdown, Favre threw four touchdown passes and posted a 128.6 rating in a turnover-free 38-26 win.
“One of my favorite memories?” Peterson asked. “I would say going back there with Favre and getting a ‘W.’ Just the type of game we had as a team and the type of game that he had as well. That’s one that I’ll always remember. … I just remember coming to the sideline with my arm over his shoulders and he’s just smiling.
“Just the type of season we had and to win that game and get ready to go to the NFC Championship Game, it don’t get too much better than that.”