"I don't want to ever be in a position where I look back and say, 'Man, I should have played two more years,'" Peterson told TMZ. "'I should of played another year.' I want to enjoy it."
That sounds crazy, but Peterson is a certified freak. When he resurrected his career out of nowhere in 2018, when it looked like he was out of chances but then ran for 1,042 yards after Washington signed him in August, it was remarkable. It seems unlikely he has four years left, but it’s tough to count out anything with him.
Within that TMZ Sports story was also a brief mention of Peterson’s chase of Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record, which just reinforced how unbreakable that record seems to be.
Adrian Peterson still well behind Emmitt Smith
Peterson is one of the best backs of all time. He left Oklahoma a year early, then rushed for 1,341 yards as a rookie. He has been an All-Pro four times and an NFL MVP once. He’s one of five running backs to have a 1,000-yard season at 33 years or older.
And he’s still 4,139 yards behind Smith’s all-time record.
One of the greatest running backs of all time, who got an early start and had a peak that is as good as any this century, could have four more 1,000-yard seasons — through his age 38 season — and still be a bit short of Smith. Wow.
If Peterson has one more 1,000-yard season he’d be on an incredibly short list. John Riggins and John Henry Johnson are the only 35-year-old backs to post a 1,000-yard season. Marcus Allen is the only 36-year-old back to post at least 800 yards, according to Pro Football Reference. Allen and Johnson are the only two 37-year-old backs to reach 200 yards.
Peterson has beaten plenty of odds, but he’d have to rewrite history to post even a couple more 1,000-yard seasons. And if Peterson can’t catch Smith, can anyone?
Peterson is a throwback, like Smith
Smith didn’t play that long ago with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals, but it was a different era. He almost never came off the field and had no problem handling a ton of carries year after year in a time when teams still treated running backs as the foundation of their offense.
Peterson is a throwback too. He’s a star running back who spent years with the Minnesota Vikings as the fulcrum of their offense. And unless he has an enormous final chapter to his career, and does things no NFL back has ever come close to doing before, he’ll fall well short of Smith.
Peterson isn’t even the NFL’s active leading rusher. That’s Frank Gore. Gore is still 3,008 yards behind Smith and has transitioned to a complimentary role. Gore is 37 and hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2016. He’s not catching Smith either. The next two backs on the active list are LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch, and neither are signed right now. After them is Mark Ingram, who is more than 11,000 yards behind Smith. Ingram could add O.J. Simpson’s career total of 11,236 rushing yards and still be short of Smith’s record. Think about that.
Smith’s career has somehow become a little underrated. Jim Brown, Walter Payton or Barry Sanders get more love when talking about the greatest back ever. The credit for Smith’s success sometimes gets shifted to the great team around him, mostly the offensive line. But his record of 18,355 yards is probably never being matched. He was also a remarkable playoff performer with 1,586 postseason yards, and three rings too.
Let’s marvel at Peterson, who is doing things in his mid-30s few backs have ever done. If he does play four more years as he hopes, it will be a phenomenal feat. And it will bring even more attention to the greatness of Emmitt.
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