He has defied odds before and made us look foolish for doubting him. Adrian Peterson loves this particular narrative, the one that says he can’t overcome a certain obstacle.
Any hint of skepticism becomes motivational material.
This one, though, might be too much to ask. At his age, at that position, with his hefty contract, sorry, even Peterson is human and subject to the NFL’s harsh realities.
The Adrian Peterson who dominated NFL defenses is gone, even if he plays in a Vikings uniform again. And that “if’’ should be capitalized for emphasis.
Anyone anticipating another triumphant return might be clinging to false hope.
The organization must brace for that scenario, just like the Vikings must consider the possibility that Teddy Bridgewater might not return as the same player after suffering a devastating knee injury.
Peterson will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Coach Mike Zimmer said the team won’t know the full extent of Peterson’s injury until after surgery.
If the damage is as serious as ESPN reports — something known as a “bucket handle tear” — Peterson could be sidelined three to four months. His season essentially is over, if so.
His tenure in Minnesota could be as well.
Given the nature and timing of his injury, this feels like more than just another speed bump in Peterson’s path. A decision on his future already loomed before this latest episode.
Peterson’s contract carries a ginormous $18 million salary cap hit next season. The Vikings never were going to make that financial commitment, even if Peterson had stayed healthy and defended his NFL rushing title.
No running back has that kind of value.
The more logical scenario would be a contract restructuring, but that option is clouded now, too.
Peterson would need to accept a massive pay cut to justify bringing him back, knowing he turns 32 in March and is dealing with another serious knee injury.
Keep in mind, too, that he’s due a $6 million roster bonus in early March. The organization can’t drag its feet in deciding how to proceed. If Peterson hints at playing hardball, move on.
Financial constraints combined with Peterson’s growing résumé of injuries and age likely could signal the end of his Vikings career.
If he does return under a reasonable contract, it’s time the Vikings reshape their offense with a different focus. Peterson no longer can be counted on as a bell cow that provides the offense its identity.
He has become a conundrum. He’s a future Hall of Famer and longtime face of the organization who led the league in rushing last season.
But his strengths — running out of “I” formation with quarterback under center — don’t fit Norv Turner’s desire to have his quarterback predominantly in shotgun. Peterson vowed to adjust his game.
Five years ago, fans would have told the Vikings to board up Winter Park if Peterson suffered a season-ending injury. Now the blow seems softened by Zimmer’s top-five defense, Sam Bradford’s stellar debut and a curiosity about how Turner’s offense will function without an obligation to force-feed the ball to Peterson.
I don’t buy the theory that the offense will be better without Peterson. Most of the blame for his minuscule production the first two games can be attributed to putrid performance by his offensive line.
Defenses also regularly committed eight or nine defenders to stop Peterson, unafraid of the Vikings passing game. That approach likely will change now.
Peterson always placed lofty, even unrealistic, expectations on himself before every season. He talked about playing until he’s 40 and rushing for 2,500 yards and breaking Emmitt Smith’s career rushing mark.
Some of it occasionally sounded silly and outlandish. Except Peterson taught us never to bet against him after he returned from ACL surgery to nearly break the all-time single-season rushing record, fireman’s carry the Vikings into the playoffs and earn league MVP honors.
Many of us compared him to Superman that season. A lot has changed in four years.
His physical skills are declining, he can’t be trusted on third down and now he potentially could miss nearly a second full season in the past three years.
Peterson needed help getting to the locker room Sunday night after suffering his injury. He hopped on one leg and grimaced, unable to put weight on his right leg.
As difficult as it might be, the Vikings must start considering life without their Hall of Fame running back.