EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson’s numbers speak for themselves: 1,600 rushing yards, 1,811 total yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. The first two numbers lead the NFL, and he’s tied for third in touchdowns.
The Minnesota Vikings’ star running back knows, in the eyes of some, not even those numbers are enough to sway MVP voters his way. He knows the usual considerations will come for the league’s top quarterbacks, but he doesn’t believe he should be slighted just because he’s a running back.
“Quarterbacks kind of get a little leeway at times,” Peterson said Thursday. “But the MVP goes to the best player. You’ve got to be able to evaluate different situations — who’s been performing the best — not just narrow it down to quarterbacks. That’s not right. If that’s the case then you should make it a quarterback-only award.”
Peterson has been mentioned as a possible MVP candidate, along with usual names like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Coincidentally, Peterson and Manning will also be the top two players considered for Comeback Player of the Year; Peterson with his recovery from major knee surgery, Manning returning from four neck surgeries.
But Peterson said the MVP award would mean a lot to him, in part, because of how hard he worked this offseason to return from a December surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments.
With Peterson putting together one of the most remarkable seasons by a running back in NFL history — he’s just the third back to rush for at least 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry in the first 13 games of a season, joining Hall of Famers Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson — he’s carried Minnesota to a possible playoff berth after going 3-13 last year.
The Vikings (7-6) likely will have to win their final three games to make the postseason. But Peterson — who missed practice Thursday with a minor abdominal injury — doesn’t believe his team’s record will, or should, hold him back in the eyes of MVP voters either.
“I don’t think so,” Peterson said when asked if the MVP should come from a playoff team. “I’m planning on being in the playoffs, but to answer the question, I don’t think so … But hey, it is what it is: The best player is the best player, on an undefeated team or a losing team.”
Forget that Peterson is coming back from his surgery; his numbers would gain notoriety regardless. The four-time Pro Bowl selection is angling for his first 2,000-yard season and trying to become just the seventh player in league history to reach the coveted mark.
He even said on Wednesday’s “Dan Patrick Show” that former Los Angeles Rams back Eric Dickerson should be worried about his single-season record of 2,105 rushing yards set in 1984.
Peterson said Thursday he hasn’t thought about what records he’d most like to own, but said Dickerson’s single-season mark as well as Emmitt Smith’s career record of 18,355 yards are two he wants to reach.
“I’ve got 1,600 yards,” Peterson said Thursday. “I’ve got three games left, and 500 would get the record. I know that. So, I’m just going to control what I can control now. The past is the past, so I’ll let those things go and see how I can affect the future, and that’s taking it one game at a time and doing my job.”
Of the six previous 2,000-yard rushers, three earned at least a share of the MVP award: Barry Sanders (2,053 in 1997), Terrell Davis (2,008 in 1998) and Simpson (2,003 in 1973).
Even Dickerson was denied the honor in his record-breaking season, with the award going to Miami quarterback Dan Marino. Interestingly, Manning has earned the award twice over a 2,000-yard rusher (Jamal Lewis in 2003 and Chris Johnson in 2009).
Peterson, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the week Wednesday after his 154-yard, two-touchdown game Sunday, has no plans to slow down late in the season. He outlined one of his offseason workouts Thursday, and it wasn’t kid stuff.
“I don’t plan on hitting no wall,” Peterson said. “I didn’t hit no rookie wall. I don’t believe in walls. I worked extremely hard to push through the season.”
How his season will be rewarded is still to be determined.