Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is an athletic freak of nature. The 6-foot-1-inch tall, 220-pound running back has been the NFL prototype for a running back for nearly 10 seasons. A torn ACL in 2011 and sports hernia in 2012 shelved Peterson for a period before he returned to form last season to lead the league in rushing. A torn meniscus in September was believed to knock Peterson out for the season but the running back is slated to start in Minnesota’s week 14 game against Indianapolis. Minnesota (7-6) isn’t out of playoff contention but their Super Bowl odds aren’t remotely warm. Peterson, 31, is entering the twilight of his career so returning to action is important to him. But should he? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this interesting question.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson warms up before the start of an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Riley: Minnesota’s isn’t out of contention so it makes sense for Peterson to return if he’s healthy. Meniscus injuries aren’t normally labeled severe or career threatening so if he can return at a high level, then he should. Peterson could be the morale boost that the team needs to close out the season strongly. Certain NFL players come along every few years that are simply athletic and physical marvels. Peterson classifies as one.
Green: Minnesota lost its starting quarterback before the season even started and has lost numerous linemen to injury over the season. Peterson is returning to a train wreck on offense despite the Vikings being stout on defense. I could see it if Minnesota was just one running back away from being guaranteed Super Bowl material but they’re not. Peterson wants to end his career on a strong note but he might be better served rehabbing and returning to action next season when the bulk of his offensive partners will be rested and ready.
Riley: There’s never been a team that was “guaranteed Super Bowl material” since outcomes are always decided on the field. Peterson is returning with the hope of carrying the Vikings to a championship. He shouldn’t be faulted for that. From his teammates’ perspective, if he’s healthy then he needs to be playing. Period. Teams can get hot in the postseason and sometimes it doesn’t take a bunch of talent, just momentum. What better momentum than your franchise player returning from injury?
Green: It’s going to take a little bit more than an aging Peterson to drive this team to the Super Bowl. I would hate to see Peterson risk injury for a lost season. Incumbent quarterback Sam Bradford has never been a reliable signal caller and it’s unlikely he’ll flip the script this season. Dallas, Seattle, Green Bay and even Detroit, Washington and New York are all playing better football right now than Minnesota, and I would take every single starting quarterback from those teams over Bradford. Peterson has had a fantastic career but his return won’t push Minnesota over the top and, because of that, he shouldn’t play again this season.