First, let’s get this out of the way: NFL stories in May and June are mostly fluff. We get it, everyone is in the best shape of their life. Every failed young player is ready for a breakout. Every veteran is reborn.
That said, the New Orleans Saints’ gushing about running back Adrian Peterson is worth noting.
“I’m amazed,” left tackle Terron Armstead said, according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “This dude is extremely blessed. He’s got so much left. You’ll see it.”
Duncan’s column is a collection of excited quotes from Saints players about how impressive Peterson looks, and Duncan added this:
This is my 20th year covering the NFL. I’ve never heard players hype someone the way the Saints talked about Adrian Peterson on Thursday.
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) June 2, 2017
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, because Peterson has been one of the greatest players of this generation, but what if all of this talk is a sign of things to come? What if there’s a fun New Orleans postscript coming for Peterson?
Peterson was the NFL’s rushing champion in 2015, and that’s not too long ago. His 2016 wasn’t good, but it’s easy to figure out what happened. Peterson didn’t play well in Week 1, but that’s not unusual for him. His slow starts are a byproduct of him not playing in the preseason. In Week 2 he tore his meniscus. Late in the season, he rushed back to try to get the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs and understandably looked rusty in one game. Dismissing him as washed up based on a very small sample size last season seems odd (though, to be fair, he slumped considerably at the end of the 2015 season, too).
So the rushing champ from two seasons ago couldn’t find a job for a long time, until the Saints signed him to a modest two-year, $7 million deal right before the NFL draft. His contract has plenty of incentives but only $3.5 million guaranteed. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk got $9.75 million guaranteed from the San Francisco 49ers, according to Spotrac. Maybe the Saints got a steal with Peterson.
There’s still a question about Peterson’s role, considering Mark Ingram is still in New Orleans. But it’s fair to assume Peterson didn’t sign on with the Saints to play a handful of snaps behind Ingram all season. If Peterson carries this positive momentum through training camp and into the season, the Saints will find carries for him.
Maybe this is just more early June hype, and by September it’ll be clear that all the teams who wanted nothing to do with Peterson were justified. Maybe he won’t have anything more to offer at age 32, and this will be the modern-day version of Franco Harris with the Seattle Seahawks. But the Saints certainly seem impressed so far.
“He looks the part,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, according to the Times-Picayune. “It’s been impressive.”
“Everybody’s doubting him,” Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “He’s 30 or whatever he is. Every clip is ‘Can A.P. still do it?’ Just wait. Y’all about to see for yourself. He’s going to be a factor.”
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