EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Talk with Adrian Peterson, and his supreme confidence and goal-oriented work ethic comes across as quickly as his smile. Despite doubters saying he couldn’t come all the way back from major knee surgery this season, Peterson never doubted himself.
Now, in the midst of the best year of his NFL career, the Minnesota Vikings’ star running back believes he can reach a major milestone in his “comeback” season: 2,000 rushing yards — maybe more.
How about the all-time league record of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson in 1984?
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“That sounds good, too,” Peterson said Thursday. “(2,500) even better.”
Only six players in NFL history have reached 2,000 rushing yards in a season. Peterson’s career high came in his second year in 2008, when he finished with 1,760 yards, the 22nd-highest single-season total in league history. Through 12 games, he’s already at 1,446.
Peterson hasn’t merely returned from Dec. 30 surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee. He’s come back better than evaer, quite an accomplishment for a running bck who’s had at least 1,298 rushing yards in each of his first four seasons before last year’s injury-riddled 970-yard finish.
Peterson’s 1,446 rushing yards are 308 yards more than his next closest competitor, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Seemingly outdoing himself every week with a team-record six straight games over 100 yards rushing, he’s now up to a career-best 6.2 yards per carry.
“It’s kind of getting to be like a regular thing that we expect him to have these 60-, 80-yard runs for touchdowns,” quarterback Christian Ponder said Wednesday. “We’re almost maybe taking it for granted. But I think 10 years down the road, when we look back and kind of really think about what he did or after the season think about what he really did, it is really tremendous and amazing what he’s doing. He is a one-of-a-kind player.”
Even with the impressive six-game stretch, Peterson is on pace for less than 2,000 rushing yards. He’s averaging 120.5 per game, putting him on track for 1,928 yards — the eighth-highest single-season total in NFL history.
Yet, if he can continue his recent run, maybe 2,000 yards — or even Dickerson’s record — isn’t out of the question.
Including his 153-yard effort against Arizona on Oct. 21, Peterson has 947 yards in the past six games, an average of 157.8. If he replicates that pace, he will finish with 2,077 yards.
Peterson isn’t focusing on the 2,000-yard mark, but it’s not completely out of his mind, either.
“I’m not making it seem like I don’t want to get 2,000,” said Peterson, who missed practice Thursday to rest. “But I’m making it simple for myself. Go out, continue to play the way I’m playing, and then I feel like it will come. So I don’t sit there and worry or think about it, just go out and play ball and let it come to me and let it happen.”
Last Sunday, Peterson finished with 21 carries for 210 yards, the third time in his career he’s topped 200 yards and the first time since his rookie season. He also had the longest run of his career, an 82-yarder for a touchdown. Yet he said a loss to Green Bay put a damper on the 200-yard game and that he felt he could have done more to keep the Vikings from dropping to 6-6.
Peterson, who believes “100 percent” his success this season is related to the work he put in during the offseason to rehabilitate his knee, believes the milestones and records will come if he simply works hard and does his job. Peterson sets high goals, but one goal trumps them all.
“I want to win a couple championships,” Peterson said. “So, however long it takes, I’m going to ride it till the wheels fall off.”
Peterson, who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract extension before last season, believes those championships will come in Minnesota.
“I feel like they can happen here,” Peterson said. “I feel like we have the talent to make it happen. We just got to get the pieces and put them all together.”