Why do I keep seeing these online reports of speculation about Adrian Peterson returning to the Vikings? This shouldn’t be happening. Why? Because it won’t be happening, for starters, and it shouldn’t be happening on any account.
The days of Purple Jesus are over. (Unless he signs with Baltimore.) AP has moved on and every year away helps to rebuild and restore his reputation for the day when he comes back to Minnesota and gets his name in the Vikings Ring of Honor, or gets his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of a Vikings game. Distance helps; so let the distance grow.
Peterson had a HOF career in Minnesota, for which he was beloved by many. Then he had a hall of infamy incident which clouded his legacy and put most Minnesota fans into one of two camps: yea or nay. But Peterson left, and Vikings fans didn’t have to address it anymore.
AP had a bad seasons abroad (in New Orleans and Arizona) and then wound up in Washington, where he spent much of the season in the top five of running backs, revitalized his on-field reputation and separated himself even further from the ugly incident of 2014. It led to Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis to say the following on NFL Network:
“It’s time to bring AP back home. It’s time to bring him back to Minnesota. Think about it, Latavius Murray may be out of there. You still like Dalvin Cook, he’s going to be there. But remember, this is a two-back league now. You bring Adrian back. What I saw last year, there was a lot of gas in the tank and it would be phenomenal to see him finish his career off in Minnesota where it all started.”
And then writers (such as myself) on websites (such as this one) picked up the story and furthered it by commenting on it. Guilty as charged. But only because I want it to stop (and I will accept the clicks). In fact, Skor North facetiously put together an all “bring them back” team (we think it’s facetious) on Twitter in response. My question for all of this is, didn’t the Vikings learn their lesson when they did this with Randy Moss? Do we remember how that turned out?
Okay, it’s the offseason, so I’ll bite. First, here’s why it won’t happen. The Vikings have moved on. The Vikings were desperate and wanted AP back during the spanking debacle enough to go down to Texas to get him, but those days are done. When Peterson came back in 2015, he had a decent season 1,485 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, but things were never like they were before that.
Even though now, head coach Mike Zimmer would love a running back who could tote the rock effectively enough to set up play action, Peterson is not the guy to do that, and he became more of a headache for the team than his production could offset, so the Vikings gladly let him go and they moved on with their lives. Zim and Rick Spielman are not looking back.
They drafted Dalvin Cook to replace Peterson, which is the beginning of why it shouldn’t happen. Cook is younger, faster, and more well-rounded back than AP (now), and that means he is a better pass-catcher and pass protector and can stay on the field for third downs and make defenses believe in the play-action thing—which is supposed to be quarterback Kirk Cousins forte.
Peterson had a very good season in 2018 (1,042 yards and seven rushing touchdowns—including a 90-yarder, the longest of his career and not bad for a soon-to-be 34-yard-old). But it is not one likely to be repeated here (or anywhere) with Cook getting the lion’s share of the carries.
And Peterson cooling his jets on the sideline watching the Vikings current three-down back in the game (while AP hears the clock ticking away on his opportunity to pass Emmitt Smith for the all-time rushing lead )is just not something anyone wants to witness. Do we recall those shots of Peterson on the Saints sidelines at U.S. Bank Stadium when he wasn’t getting enough carriers? Not pretty.
The Vikings have a better version of a back still on the roster until he becomes a free agent in Latavius Murray. There is no guarantee that Murray returns, but that is no reason to re-sign Peterson and stir up that turmoil before it has completely settled (the Vikings also like Mike Boone and Roc Thomas). The Vikings don’t want it; Adrian Peterson’s wife doesn’t want it; and I think it is safe to assume that Peterson doesn’t want it.
Peterson still has revenge in his heart toward the Vikings, more than he has a love for a return. Have we forgotten how AP told reporters that he wanted to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs this past season? (Of course, neither team made the postseason and the Vikings grabbing AP this offseason isn’t going to be the catalyst to change that prospect for either squad.)
The bottom line is that the Vikings should and will say no to this. And all of us who follow, observe and cheer for the Purple should do so, as well. Time is the healer that is needed in this situation now. Surely you enjoyed the return of Moss years after his second and regrettable tour with Minnesota. Time will provide us the opportunity to enjoy Peterson’s return, also. But that time is not here yet.