Adrian Peterson was planted firmly on both sides of the fence, professing a desire to finish his career as a Viking while also describing his situation as a “business” eight times during a 12-minute interview that might have been his last at Winter Park.
He praised the fans, expressed love for his teammates and the organization that drafted him in 2007. Before long, the only question that really begs to be answered — is he willing to negotiate the necessary pay cut to stay in Minnesota? — was barked from the scrum surrounding him.
The presumption is Peterson is unwilling and already is looking toward free agency in March because even he accepts the fact the Vikings aren’t going to pay him $18 million in 2017.
“I’m not ready to get into the contract talk and all that,” he said. “I don’t want to go down that road when it comes to considering less money, this, that and the other.”
Later, Peterson was asked if he understands the reality of the business in terms of older players that came before him taking pay cuts. The first part of Peterson’s answer suggested he gets it. The second part hinted that he might believe he’s still above that undesirable part of the business.
Here’s the first part: “There’s the reality that there comes a point in time where, yeah, the best thing to do is take a pay cut and it might be in the best interest of the team, as well.”
But he continued: “It’s one of those situations where there are guys that are, I would say, worth putting the money into as well. Like, for instance, you’ve got a guy like Tom Brady or a guy like Antonio Brown. You put more money into those guys than you would do … other guys.”
He didn’t connect the dots from himself to Brown or Brady. But there was a point during the interview when Peterson said he believes he can play five to seven more seasons at a high level.
What made Peterson a great NFL player was his ability to create his own reality.
When people said it wasn’t possible for him to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament better than he was before, he rushed for 2,097 yards and won league MVP.
When people said he couldn’t justify a $15.6 million cap figure at age 30 a year ago, he won his third rushing title while helping the Vikings unseat the Packers as NFC North champions.
But age is undefeated. The Vikings still can use Peterson, but they will never be built around him again. In fact, with or without Peterson, they need another young running back.
Peterson will be 32 in March. He missed 13 games and was ineffective in the other three.
He revealed Monday that he tore 90 percent of the meniscus in his right knee back in Week 2 and that his return in Week 15 was at minimum a month ahead of schedule. He also revealed that he suffered the abductor injury in his groin area while pushing to return for the Colts game.
“If [the tear] was 10 percent, I would have trimmed it off and been back in a couple of weeks,” he said. “But 90 percent of your meniscus being gone? Especially with how I work out and how I play the game, it could have been six months to a year before I was bone on bone. And with me knowing that I have a lot left in the tank, it would have been crazy to cut off 90 percent of my meniscus.”
When a reporter asked Peterson if he thinks he can keep playing at “32, 33, 34,” Peterson smiled.
“35, 36 …” he said. “Don’t cut it off short. … I think outside the norm.”
For the first time in his career, however, Peterson will be forced to accept something at or a lot closer to the financial norm for a 32-year-old running back who’s coming off a three-game season and typically exits the field in passing situations.
“I haven’t said, ‘You know what? I get to test [free agency] and I’m just going to write myself off here in Minnesota,’ ” Peterson said. “I’m going into this thinking about my guys and wanting to be back and realizing that it is a business. But I would love to finish my career here and try to help bring a Super Bowl here to Minnesota.”
We’ll find out in March which side of the fence Peterson comes down on.