Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are two of the NFL's top running backs in part because they both have extreme confidence in their abilities.
Not surprisingly, both see themselves as the league's best at their position. The Titans' Johnson made that clear in July when he told The Sporting News that there's "no way possible there should be a debate about who's the best running back in the NFL."
Peterson would be more than happy to debate Johnson on the subject. He proved this on Wednesday morning while appearing on Dan Patrick's syndicated radio show.
Peterson told Patrick that he thinks Johnson is "just awesome," but when asked if he was the better running back Peterson responded, "Yes. Yeah. Yeah," adding, "I play the game to be the best player and that doesn't change my mindset at all."
Peterson went on to tell Patrick that he doesn't think Johnson does anything better than he does and isn't faster.
“No, [he's] not faster, stronger, anything," Peterson said. "You’ve got to understand you’re talking to a guy … that’s just the mentality that I have. I have ultimate respect for the guy and he’s a heck of a player. I remember at one point and time me talking on the phone to Chris Johnson. He was telling me, ‘I’m just a big fan of yours. I like your style.’ Some [of the] advice that I gave him was, ‘I play this game to be the best player ever to play the game. That’s my mentality.'"
Johnson must have listened because last season he became the sixth player in NFL history to gain at least 2,000 yards rushing in a single season. Johnson finished with 2,006 yards. Peterson, who led the NFL in rushing in 2008 with 1,760 yards and has long said 2,000 yards is his goal, was sixth in the league with 1,383 yards last season.
In two NFL seasons, Johnson also has caught 93 passes for 763 yards and three touchdowns. That includes 50 receptions in 2009. He has fumbled four times and lost all of them. That's an important stat because that has been Peterson's biggest issue in his three seasons. He has 20 fumbles with 13 lost in three regular seasons, including seven (six lost) last season.
As for his receptions, Peterson has caught 83 passes for 829 yards and one touchdown in three years. His reception total did go from 21 to a career-high 43 last season.
Asked if he told Johnson he felt he was the better player, Peterson said: “He was listening to the words that were coming out of my mouth. I told him, ‘You need to approach this with the same mentality, if that’s what you want to be.’ If you want to be the best running back then you’ve got to believe it before you can accomplish that. My mentality doesn’t change. I wish everyone the best that they succeed. But ultimately I play this game to be the best and I’m going to work my tail off to accomplish that goal.”