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Adrian Peterson

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Adrian Peterson
refer to caption
Peterson with the Minnesota Vikings in 2010
No. 23 – Arizona Cardinals
Position: Running back
Personal information
Born: (1985-03-21) March 21, 1985 (age 32)
Palestine, Texas[1]
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 220 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High school: Palestine (TX)
College: Oklahoma
NFL Draft: 2007 / Round: 1 / Pick: 7
Career history
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2017
Rushing yards: 12,276
Yards per carry: 4.8
Rushing touchdowns: 99
Receiving yards: 2,015
Receiving touchdown: 5
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Adrian Lewis Peterson[1] (born March 21, 1985) is an American football running back for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Oklahoma and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings seventh overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Peterson set the NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards as a true freshman during the 2004 season. As a unanimous first-team All-American, he became the first freshman to finish as the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Peterson finished his college football career as the Sooners' third all-time leading rusher.[2]

Following his first professional season, in which he set an NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game (296), Peterson was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.[3] He was then awarded the MVP award for his performance in the Pro Bowl and became only the fifth player in NFL history to have more than 3,000 yards through his first two seasons. In 2010, he became the fifth fastest player to run for 5,000 yards, doing so in his 51st game.

In 2012, Peterson became the sixth fastest player to reach 8,000 rushing yards, ending the season with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season all-time record. Peterson amassed 2,314 all-purpose yards from scrimmage in 2012, tying Marcus Allen for the eighth-highest total ever. For his efforts, he received the NFL MVP Award and the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award for the 2012 NFL season. Peterson also achieved the No. 1 spot on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2013.[4] During the 2013 season, Peterson became the third fastest player to reach 10,000 rushing yards in NFL history.[5]

Peterson was indicted in September 2014 by a Montgomery County grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child that occurred in May 2014,[6] and was suspended for most of the 2014 season as a result. In April 2015, Peterson was reinstated to the league.[7] In April 2017, after 10 seasons with the Vikings, Peterson signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, but was traded to the Cardinals just five weeks into the 2017 season.[8]

Early years

Peterson was born in Palestine, Texas, to Bonita Brown and Nelson Peterson, who were also star athletes in college.[9] His father was a shooting guard for Idaho, but his dream of a National Basketball Association career was derailed when a gun that his brother was cleaning discharged into his leg.[9][10] His mother, a three-time Texas state champion at Westwood High School, attended the University of Houston on an athletic scholarship as a sprinter and long jumper.[9] Peterson's best friend was his older brother, Brian. Peterson's father nicknamed him "All Day," because his father said he could go all day.[11]

At age 7, Peterson saw his 9-year-old brother Brian killed by a drunk driver as he rode his bicycle.[11] It was around that time that Peterson began to deal with his pain through sports and became interested in football.[12] He was the star of his youth football teams coached by Rick Nally. Coach Nally stated that at that early age," we would watch AD play in the NFL one day". His father Nelson participated as an Assistant Coach. Peterson played in the popular East Texas, Anderson County Youth Football Program.[1] When Peterson was 13, his father was arrested for laundering money for a crack cocaine ring.[11]

High school career

Peterson was a three-sport standout in football, basketball, and track at Palestine High School in Palestine, Texas.[13] Peterson was most notable in football, which he played during his junior and senior years.[14] During his sophomore year, he was not eligible to play for the Palestine High School Wildcats varsity football team.[9] Peterson's junior season ended with 2,051 yards on 246 carries, an average of 8.3 yards per carry, and 22 touchdowns.[13] It was during his junior year that he began to attract the attention of Division I recruiters and realized he would likely have his pick of colleges after his senior year.[9]

As a senior in 2003, he rushed for 2,960 yards on 252 attempts, an average of 11.7 yards per carry, and 32 touchdowns.[13] After a game, players from the other team asked for his autograph.[9] Following Maurice Clarett's unsuccessful attempt to sue the NFL over its age limit in 2004, there was considerable debate over whether any high school football player might be able to make the leap from the preps to the pro game. The player most frequently mentioned was Peterson.[15]

Track and field

Peterson followed in his mother's footsteps to excel in track & field at Woodward, where he won several medals in events such as the 100 meters, 200 meters, triple jump, and long jump. Peterson's coach has stated that he believes that, had he not chosen a career in football, Peterson could have become an Olympic sprinter instead.[9] He recorded a wind-legal time of 10.26 seconds in the 100-meter dash at the 2002 District 15-4A Championships, where he took first by a large margin.[citation needed] He also posted a wind-assisted time of 10.33 seconds in the 100 meters at the 2003 UIL State Track Meet, where he earned a second-place finish behind Ivory Williams,[16][17] who won the 2004 World Junior Championship over the same distance. At the 2004 District 14-4A Championships, Peterson ran the second leg on the Palestine 4 × 100 m relay squad, helping lead them to victory with a time of 41.50 seconds.[18] Peterson has stated that his personal-best times are 10.19 seconds in the 100 meters, 21.23 seconds in the 200 meters, and 47.6 seconds in the 400 meters.[19]

College recruiting

Regarded as a five-star recruit by both the and recruiting networks, Peterson was listed as the No. 1 running back and overall prospect in the Class of 2004 by[20] After considering schools such as Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, Arkansas, and Miami (FL),[21] he decided that he wanted to go to a school where he could be a difference-maker in a national championship run and narrowed his choices down to USC and Oklahoma.[9] Concluding his high school football career at the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he led the West squad with 95 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns, and announced at the game that he would attend college at the University of Oklahoma.[22] Following his senior season, he was awarded the Hall Trophy as the U. S. Army National Player of the Year.[22] In addition, he was named the top high school player by College Football News and[13]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletes
Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight 40 Commit date
Adrian Peterson
Palestine, Texas Palestine High School 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 4.4 Jan 3, 2004 
Recruiting star ratings: Scout:5/5 stars   Rivals:5/5 stars   247SportsN/A    ESPN grade: 5
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 1 (RB)   Rivals: 1 (RB), 1 (Texas), 1 National
  • ‡ Refers to 40 yard dash
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height, weight and 40 time.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.


College career

Freshman season

Peterson before a game against the Washington Huskies

Peterson attended the University of Oklahoma, where he played for coach Bob Stoops's Oklahoma Sooners football team from 2004 to 2006. During his freshman season at Oklahoma, Peterson broke several NCAA freshman rushing records, rushing for 1,925 yards and leading the nation in carries with 339.[23] In each of the first nine games of the season, he rushed for more than 100-yards, which is a freshman record.[24] He rushed for 100 yards in the season opener against Bowling Green,[25] 117 yards against Houston, 183 yards against Oregon, 146 yards against Texas Tech, 225 yards against Texas, 130 yards against Kansas State, and 122 yards against Kansas.[24][26]

Against Oklahoma State on October 30, 2004, Peterson had an 80-yard touchdown run and rushed for 161 yards in the third quarter, finishing with a career-high 249 yards.[27] Despite dislocating his left shoulder in the first half, he managed to run for 101 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, his ninth straight 100-yard game, against Texas A&M.[28] In the next game against Nebraska, he saw little action because of his shoulder injury and finished with 58 yards, which ended his streak of consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing at nine.[29] In a game against Baylor, Peterson ran for 240 yards, including three second-half touchdowns,[30] and set the NCAA record for most 100-yard games by a freshman with 11 against Colorado.[31] Oklahoma, who were one of the poorest rushing teams the year before, became one of the nation’s best.[32]

Despite his record-breaking season, he finished second to USC quarterback Matt Leinart in the Heisman Trophy voting.[23] Among other honors, he was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award,[33] and the first Oklahoma freshman recognized as a First-Team Associated Press All-American.[23] Peterson contributed to a perfect regular season for the Oklahoma Sooners and participated in the 2005 BCS National Championship Game with a berth to the 2005 Orange Bowl against USC Trojans.[33] USC retooled their defense to stop Peterson and limited him to just 82 yards, as the Trojans defeated the Sooners by a score of 55–19. USC later vacated the win due to NCAA infractions. After the season, he had surgery on his left shoulder to strengthen the muscles around the joint.[9]

2004 Heisman Trophy Finalist Voting
Finalist First place votes
(3 pts. each)
Second place votes
(2 pts. each)
Third place votes
(1 pt. each)
Total points
Matt Leinart 267 211 102 1325
Adrian Peterson 154 180 175 997
Jason White 171 149 146 957

Sophomore season

In the 2005 season, Peterson's playing time was limited by a broken foot.[13] He injured his ankle in the first Big 12 Conference game of the season against Kansas State.[35] Despite missing time in four games, he rushed for 1,208 yards and 14 touchdowns on 220 carries, finishing second in rushing yardage in the Big 12.[23] His 2005 season was also notable for a career-long 84-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State.[23] Oklahoma finished the season with an 8–4 record, the worst season since 1999. They finished third in the Big 12 behind the Texas Longhorns and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Sooners would represent the Big 12 in the Holiday Bowl, where they defeated the #6 Oregon Ducks, 17–14.[36] On July 11, 2007, the NCAA announced the Sooners would have to vacate all victories from the 2005 season, including the bowl game, due to NCAA violations;[37] however, the decision was partially overturned in February 2008, and the NCAA reinstated the Sooners' 8–4 record from the season.[38] Upon the conclusion of the season, he was named a member of the All-Big 12 Conference team.[23]

Junior season

Peterson runs against Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Peterson's father, Nelson Peterson, was released from prison during the 2006 college football season and was able to watch his son as a spectator for the first time on October 14, 2006,[12] when Oklahoma played Iowa State. Oklahoma defeated Iowa State in that game; however, on the final drive for the Sooners, Peterson broke his collar bone when he dove into the end zone on a 53-yard touchdown run.[39] During a press conference on October 18, Peterson said he was told by doctors to expect to be out for 4–6 weeks.[40] At the time of the injury, Peterson needed only to gain 150 yards to pass Billy Sims as the University of Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher.[41] He was unable to return for the rest of the Sooners' regular season and missed seven games. The Sooners would turn to Allen Patrick, a junior, and Chris Brown, a freshman, to replace Peterson. The team went on a seven-game winning streak including winning the Big 12 Championship game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.[42] He returned for their last game against Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, where he rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown.[39] He refused to discuss his plans beyond the end of this season with the press.[40] He concluded his college football career with 1,112 rushing yards his final season, even after missing multiple games due to injury[43] for a total of 4,245 rushing yards (only three seasons).[44] He finished 73 yards short of passing Billy Sims as Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher.[44]

College statistics

Rushing Receiving
Year Team GP Att Yards Avg TDs Rec Yards TDs
2004 Oklahoma 13 339 1,925 5.7 15 5 12 0
2005 Oklahoma 11 221 1,104 5.0 14 9 50 0
2006 Oklahoma 7 188 1,012 5.4 12 10 136 1
College Totals 31 748 4,041 5.4 41 24 198 1


Professional career

2007 NFL Draft

On January 15, 2007, Peterson declared that he would forgo his senior year of college and enter the 2007 NFL Draft.[46] Coming into the league, he was known as a tall, upright runner possessing a rare combination of speed, strength, agility, size, and vision, along with a highly aggressive running style.[13] His rare talent as both a great breakaway and power runner has often raised comparisons to past legends, including Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, O. J. Simpson, Franco Harris, and Jim Brown.[47] Concerns about his injuries suffered during college were noted by the media and potential NFL teams.[2][12][48][49] He started 22 out of 31 games in his college career and had a dislocated shoulder his first year (although he did not miss any games), a high ankle sprain his sophomore year, and a broken collarbone his final year at Oklahoma.[2] His durability was a consideration for at least two teams in their draft analysis,[49] which impacted selection position. Prior to the 2007 NFL Draft, Peterson was compared by professional football scouts to Eric Dickerson.[50] ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said of Peterson, "You can make the argument, [Peterson] is the best player in this draft, if not, certainly one of the top three."[51]

External video
Peterson's NFL Combine workout
Peterson gets drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2007 NFL Draft
Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad
6 ft 1 38 in
(1.86 m)
217 lb
(98 kg)
4.41 s 1.57 s 2.60 s 4.40 s 7.09 s 38 12 in
(0.98 m)
10 ft 7 in
(3.23 m)
All values from NFL Combine[52]

At the NFL Combine, Peterson measured in at 6’1½” and 217 pounds; he was clocked between 4.38 and 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, had a vertical jump of 38.5 inches (0.98m) and performed well in positional drills. He solidified his status as a likely top-10 pick in the draft, arguably revealing more about his mental toughness than any psychological test or team interview could.[53]

On April 28, 2007, Peterson was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Peterson was the first running back selected and the first of three Oklahoma Sooners to be drafted in the 2007 NFL Draft. At a press conference during the draft, Peterson announced, "My collarbone, I would say it's 90% healed. A lot of teams know that, and I don't see it stopping me from being prepared for the season."[54]

Peterson believed he was a player that a franchise could build around. In an interview with IGN following the NFL Draft, he said, "I'm a player who is coming in with the determination to turn a team around. I want to help my team get to the playoffs, win...and run wild. I want to bring people to the stands. I want people to come to the game to see what I can do next. Things like that can change the whole attitude of an organization. I want to win."[55] He later told the Star Tribune in an interview, "I want to be the best player to ever play this game."[56] Nearly three months after being drafted, he was signed by the Vikings on July 29, 2007. His contract was worth $40.5 million over five years, with $17 million guaranteed.[57]

Minnesota Vikings

2007: Rookie year

Peterson began his outstanding rookie season with high expectations for himself; he announced ambitious goals including being named Offensive Rookie of the Year and rushing for over 1,300 yards during the course of the year. The NFL's rushing record for a rookie is held by Eric Dickerson at 1,808 yards.[58] Just 11 weeks into his rookie season with the Vikings, Peterson was well on his way to Dickerson's record and considered one of the elite running backs in the NFL.[59]

On August 10, 2007, Peterson made his professional debut in a preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.[60] Peterson ran for 33 yards on 11 carries with one catch for two yards.[61] On September 9, 2007, Peterson ran for 103 yards on 19 carries in his first NFL regular season game against the Atlanta Falcons.[62] In addition to his rushing yardage, he scored his first professional football touchdown on a 60-yard pass reception from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.[62] Over his first three regular season games, his 431 yards (271 rushing & 160 receiving) from scrimmage are a team record.[63] For his performance in the three games, Peterson received the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month award for both September and October 2007.[64][65]

His breakout game as a professional came on October 14, 2007 against the Chicago Bears, highlighted by a three-touchdown performance and a then-franchise record of 224 yards rushing on 20 carries.[66] Peterson established additional team records for a rookie during this game, which included the most 100-yard games rushing and the longest touchdown run from scrimmage.[67] He also set an NFL rookie record with 361 all-purpose yards in a single game. His 607 rushing yards through the first five games of the season is second in NFL history to Eric Dickerson.[68] Following Peterson's record performance, Deion Sanders, now an NFL Network analyst, said about him: "He has the vision of a Marshall Faulk, the power of an Earl Campbell, and the speed of an Eric Dickerson. Let's pray he has the endurance of an Emmitt Smith."[69] He has also been compared to Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett by Star Tribune sports journalist Jim Souhan.[70]

Three weeks later, on November 4, 2007, Peterson broke his own franchise record as well as the NFL single game rushing yard record (previously held by Jamal Lewis since 2003) when he rushed for 296 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns against the San Diego Chargers in a home game in Minneapolis.[71][72] That game was his second game of over 200 yards rushing, a feat no other rookie has ever accomplished in a season.[73] In addition to the NFL rushing record in a single game, it took him past 1,000 yards rushing for the year after just eight games.[73] His 1,036 rushing yards represents the best eight-game performance by a rookie in NFL history.[74]

Peterson splitting defenders in the 2008 Pro Bowl

In honor of Peterson's record-breaking performance against the San Diego Chargers, the jersey he wore that day was sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On November 11, 2007, just a week later, Peterson injured the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee in a game against the Green Bay Packers.[75] The injury occurred in the third quarter of a 34–0 defeat at Lambeau Field on a low tackle by Packers cornerback Al Harris.[75] Almost a month after the injury, Peterson returned to action on December 2, 2007 against the Detroit Lions scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 116 yards.[76]

On December 17, 2007, Peterson played in his first Monday Night Football game, where he had 78 yards rushing, 17 yards receiving, and two touchdowns. The next day, he was named as the starting running back for the 2008 NFC Pro Bowl team. On January 2, he was named The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.[3]

On February 10, 2008, Peterson won the 2008 NFL Pro Bowl MVP award with 16 carries for 129 yards rushing along with two touchdowns. The 129 yards rushing was the second most in Pro Bowl history. He was the first rookie since Marshall Faulk in 1994 to win the Pro Bowl MVP award.[77] Peterson and Faulk are currently the only NFL players to win both the NFL Pro Bowl MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same year. Peterson finished in second place in rushing yards (1,341) in the 2007 season behind LaDainian Tomlinson, who finished with 1,474 rushing yards.[78]

2008 season

Peterson in a 2008 NFC Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles

Peterson and the Vikings entered the 2008 season with high expectations and as he did during his rookie season, Peterson set high goals for himself including a 2,000-yard campaign and the NFL MVP award.[79] Questions remained as to Peterson's durability and the ability of the Vikings offense to take the focus of opposing defenses off Peterson.

Peterson and the Vikings began the season with a 24–19 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He finished with 103 yards on 19 carries along with a touchdown.[80] In the following loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Peterson rushed for a then season-high 160 yards on 29 carries, and also recorded four receptions for 20 yards.[81] However, Peterson was held to 77 yards on 17 carries and no score in their 20–10 win against the Carolina Panthers, partly because of a hamstring injury suffered the previous week.[82] In the next game, a loss to Tennessee, Peterson rushed 18 times for 80 yards and scored two touchdowns along with four receptions for 21 yards.[83] In the 30–27 win over the New Orleans Saints, Peterson was held to 32 yards on 21 carries, a 1.5 average.[84] Against the Detroit Lions in the following week, Peterson rushed 25 times for 111 yards, but lost two fumbles. However, Peterson bounced back from the fumbles the following week against the Bears, totaling 22 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns.[85]

Following a bye week, Peterson rushed 25 times for 139 yards and a touchdown in a victory over Houston.[86] The contest marked the third straight 100-yard rushing game for Peterson and the Vikings. As of Week 8, Peterson was second in the NFL in rushing yards with 823 yards, 172 yards behind Clinton Portis. In Week 10, on Sunday, November 9, Peterson played in a victory against the Green Bay Packers by a score of 28–27. He had 30 carries for 192 yards. His longest run was 29 yards; the run was the game-winning touchdown. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and also had three receptions.[87] Peterson's stellar performance put him in the top spot for rushing yards this season, with 1,015 yards.

Week 11 saw the Minnesota Vikings (5–4) at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6–3). Tampa Bay was coming off a bye week and was a notoriously difficult team to run against. Peterson was limited to 85 yards on just 19 carries, as the Vikings struggled to produce offense.[88] In Week 12, Peterson was benched the first two offensive series against the Jacksonville Jaguars for being late to a team meeting, although he did amass 80 rushing yards and a touchdown.[89] At the end of Week 12, Peterson became the NFL league leader for rushing yards again with 1,311 yards. Following Week 16, Peterson had 1,657 yards which led the league, and it was announced on December 18, Peterson would be the starting running back for the NFC Pro Bowl team. In his final regular season game in 2008, Peterson ran for 103 yards 21 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run.

Peterson finished the season leading the league in rushing with 1,760 yards,[90] which marks the third-most yards in a sophomore season behind Eric Dickerson's 2,105 yard season, and Chris Johnson's 2,006-yard season, which occurred the following season in 2009. In Peterson's first 30 games, he had 3,101 yards, which marks the third best start to a career for running backs behind Eric Dickerson with 3,600 yards and Jim Brown with 3,144 yards. He became the fourth running back to lead the league in yards per game in his first two seasons along with Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and Eric Dickerson. On January 14, 2009, Peterson was named to his second AP All-Pro team in two years.

2009 season

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, analysts of both the NFL Network and ESPN unanimously named Peterson the best running back in the NFL today. However, the arrival of quarterback Brett Favre, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, coming out of retirement brought both expectation and speculation about Peterson's new role in the offense. Head coach Brad Childress, however, stated that he wanted to continue leaning on Peterson, giving him a large number of carries. Favre worked well into the offense through the first half of the season, re-establishing Peterson's ability with a passing attack. Peterson had 917 rushing yards through Week 10, while the Vikings had a record of 8–1.

Peterson opened the season by rushing for 180 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns, setting a new Vikings franchise record for opening day rushing.[91] He again broke the hundred-yard barrier in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens, with 143 yards and 22 carries. His next 100-yard effort came against the Detroit Lions, with 133 yards on 18 carries,[92] and he was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Week.

In the playoffs, Minnesota defeated the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 34–3,[93] but then lost to the eventual Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship in overtime by a score of 31–28. Peterson rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns.[94] Peterson finished the year fifth in rushing and lost FedEx Ground player of the year to Titans running back Chris Johnson, who had over 2,000 yards rushing on the 2009 season. Peterson was voted to the Pro Bowl December 29 as the starting running back for the NFC team.

2010 season

Peterson opened the 2010 season strongly with 392 yards and three touchdowns through the first three weeks. In Week 6, he went over the 5,000 yard career rushing mark against the Dallas Cowboys.[95] At Week 7, Peterson was second in the league with 684 yards, averaging 114 yards per game, but the Vikings had dropped to a disappointing record of 2–4. By Week 16, Peterson had rushed for 1,267 yards with 12 touchdowns, as the Vikings improved to a 6–9 record. Peterson, who was infamous for fumbling the ball in previous seasons, had a dramatic change in the 2010 season with only one fumble during the regular season, a remarkable turnaround from his previous performances. While the Vikings missed the playoffs, Peterson represented his team in the Pro Bowl. Peterson thus far had been selected to the Pro Bowl every year he has played in the NFL. During the game, Peterson contributed 80 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 55–41 NFC win. After the season, Peterson was voted as the best running back and third-ranked player overall by his fellow players on the NFL Network's list of the NFL Top 100 Players of 2011.

2011 season

Peterson playing against the Green Bay Packers in 2011

According to, Peterson was ranked as the third best player in the NFL for the 2011 season, behind quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. On September 10, 2011, the Vikings signed Peterson for $96 million over the course of seven seasons, making him the highest paid running back in NFL history.[96] Peterson reached the 6,000-yard milestone on September 18, 2011 in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[97] On October 9, Peterson scored three touchdowns in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals,[98] setting a new franchise record. He would later earn NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance during the game.[99] In a Week 10 game against the Oakland Raiders, Peterson suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first quarter, he was then later ruled out for their Week 11 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

On December 24, 2011, Peterson was injured by safety DeJon Gomes and needed help off the field in a 33–26 victory over the Washington Redskins. He was placed onto injured reserve due to a torn ACL and MCL on December 26, 2011.

For the first time in his career, Peterson failed to record a 1,000-yard season, after playing only 12 games during the year.[100]

2012: MVP season

Peterson started Week 1, although his status was listed as questionable. He rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns in his first game in eight months after his ACL and MCL tear.[101] He passed Robert Smith to become the number one Vikings rusher of all time.[102] By Week 16, Peterson was leading the NFL in rushing with 1,898 yards and averaging 6.0 yards a carry. In addition, he had 11 touchdowns, along with 215 receiving yards.

Entering Week 17, he needed 208 yards to break the NFL single-season record for the most rushing yards (2,105), set in 1984 by Eric Dickerson. That week, the Vikings played the Green Bay Packers needing a win to clinch a playoff berth. The game was tied at 34 in the fourth quarter when Peterson ran for 26 yards, setting the Vikings up for a game-winning field goal with three seconds left.[103] The Vikings chose the field goal, which sent them to the playoffs, but also left Peterson nine yards short of breaking the record. Peterson became the second player (Earl Campbell, 1980) to rush for 150 or more yards in seven games during an NFL season and had 1,019 yards after contact. He finished the 2012 season with 2,097 rushing yards,[104] the second-most ever for a running back in a single season. The Vikings improved from 3–13 in 2011 to 10–6, qualifying as the NFC's sixth seed in the playoffs. In the Wild Card round, with Vikings' starting quarterback Christian Ponder unable to start due to injury, the Vikings fell to the Green Bay Packers in a rematch by a score of 24–10.[105] The team's record, alongside Peterson's historic season, earned him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year and the NFL Most Valuable Player awards.[106] His comeback from an ACL tear the season before also earned him second place in NFL Comeback Player of the Year award voting, coming in second to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. After the completion of the season, Peterson underwent surgery for a sports hernia. It became known that Peterson played through this injury starting in the last quarter of the season.[107]

2013 season

Peterson in 2013 against the Cleveland Browns

Peterson opened his 2013 season by taking his first carry of the year 78 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions.[108] Peterson struggled in the first three games of the season without all-pro fullback Jerome Felton, but upon his return in Week 4, Peterson rushed for 140 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers.[109] On October 10, 2013, Peterson missed practice for a "personal reason" and it was later revealed that his son was in critical condition. Peterson's son later died due to injuries suffered from an assault, apparently by the mother's live-in boyfriend. The child was two years old.[110] Despite the loss and time spent answering relentless media inquiries, he played against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers defeated the Vikings by a score of 35–10.[111][112][113] Despite the incident, Peterson turned in the fifth highest rushing yardage total for the season with 1,266 yards and ten touchdowns in just 14 games.[114]

2014 season

Peterson opened the 2014 season rushing for 75 yards against the St. Louis Rams.[115] Five days later, on September 12, 2014, Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges and subsequently deactivated for Minnesota's Week 2 game against the New England Patriots.[116] Amid the child abuse allegations, on September 15, the Vikings reinstated Peterson and he was scheduled to play against the New Orleans Saints.[117] However, on September 17, Peterson was placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, a similar transaction to the Restricted List, which required that Peterson was to "remain away from all team activities".[118] After accepting a plea deal in early November, Peterson planned to return as early as week 11.[119] On November 18, the NFL announced that Peterson would be suspended for the remainder of the 2014 season without pay. In December, his league appeal was upheld, and Peterson was scheduled for a federal court appeal hearing on February 6, 2015.[120]

2015 season

On February 26, 2015, Peterson was reinstated to the league after U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ruled in the NFL Players Association's lawsuit against the NFL on Peterson's behalf.[7][121] Despite having only played one game in 2014, he was voted as the 62nd best player in the league by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015.[122] Peterson returned to the Vikings on June 2.[123] Peterson struggled in his first game back, taking the ball ten times for 31 yards in a 20–3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.[124] He bounced to form in Week 2, picking up 134 yards on 29 carries against the Detroit Lions[125] (the eighth 100+ yard rushing game against the Lions in his career). The Vikings rushed out to a 8-3 start, with Peterson averaging 106 rushing yards per game and breaking eight touchdowns. The period was highlighted with the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 15, in which Peterson rushed 26 times for 203 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run.[126] This was his sixth career 200+ yard rushing game, tying with O. J. Simpson for the most in history. Peterson struggled more down the stretch, eclipsing 100 yards only once in the final five regular season games and one playoff game. In the first quarter of a narrow loss at Arizona in Week 14, Peterson scored his 100th career touchdown. Week 17 saw the Vikings defeat the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North Division Championship. In the game, Peterson recovered a Teddy Bridgewater fumble late in regulation to help preserve the victory.[127] Peterson was just the third player in history over the age of 30 to lead the NFL in single-season rushing yards.[128] He was ranked as the best running back and the fifth best player on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016 players' list.[129]

2016 season

With the Vikings playing the first ever regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, Peterson rushed for 19 yards until leaving the game with an apparent right knee injury.[130] The next day, it was revealed that the right knee had a torn meniscus.[131][132] On September 22, Peterson underwent successful surgery to repair the meniscus. It was also revealed that the knee had a mild LCL sprain, but it did not need surgery.[133] He was placed on injured reserve on September 23, 2016.[134] On December 17, the Vikings activated Peterson to the active roster. He returned to action against the Indianapolis Colts. He had six carries for 22 yards against the Colts.[135][136] Despite only playing three games and rushing for only 72 yards in 2016,[137] Peterson was still ranked 98th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017.[138]

On February 28, 2017, the Vikings announced that they would not exercise Peterson's 2017 option on his contract, making him a free agent at the start of the 2017 league year. Had the Vikings exercised the option, they would have had to pay him $18 million for the 2017 season.[139]

New Orleans Saints

On April 25, 2017, Peterson signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the New Orleans Saints, which included a $2.5 million signing bonus.[8][140]

Peterson played his first game with the Saints on September 11, 2017, against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. He was limited to only 18 rushing yards as the Saints lost by a score of 29–19 on Monday Night Football.[141] In the same game, Vikings rookie Dalvin Cook broke the team record for rushing yards on rookie debut, a record previously held by Peterson himself. In four games, of which he started one, with the Saints to begin the 2017 season, Peterson rushed for 81 yards.

Arizona Cardinals

On October 10, 2017, Peterson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional sixth-round draft pick.[142][143] He played his first game with the Cardinals on October 15, in which he rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns in a 38–33 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, earning him NFC Offensive Player of the Week.[144][145] During Week 9 against the San Francisco 49ers, Peterson posted another impressive performance with 159 rushing yards as the Cardinals won 20-10.[146] He was sidelined for Weeks 13 and 14 due to a neck injury, and was subsequently placed on injured reserve on December 15, 2017.[147]

NFL records and other accomplishments

  • Most rushing yards in a single game (296; vs. San Diego Chargers, November 4, 2007)[148]
  • Most rushing yards in any eight-game period (1,322)[149]
  • Most 60+ yard TD runs in a career (13)[150]
  • Tied-most 50+ yard runs in a single season (7, with Barry Sanders)[151]
  • Tied-most 200+ rushing yard games in career (6, with O.J Simpson)[152]
  • 1 time NFL MVP (2012) [153]
  • 3 time NFL Rushing Champion (2008, 2012, 2015) [154]

Vikings franchise records

  • Most career rushing touchdowns (97)[155]
  • Most rushing yards in a single season: 2,097 (2012)[155]
  • Most rushing touchdowns in a single season: 18 (2009)[155]
  • Most career rushing yards (11,675)[155]
  • Most career carries (2,381)[155]

Pro Bowl records

  • Most career rushing touchdowns (4)[156]

NFL career statistics

Led the league
NFL MVP & Offensive Player of the Year
Bold Career high


Year Team Games Rushing Receiving Fumbles
G GS Att Yds Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Lng TD Fum Lost
2007 MIN 14 9 238 1,341 5.6 73 12 19 268 60T 1 4 3
2008 MIN 16 15 363 1,760 4.8 67T 10 21 125 16 0 9 4
2009 MIN 16 15 314 1,383 4.4 64T 18 43 436 63 0 7 6
2010 MIN 15 15 283 1,298 4.6 80T 12 36 341 34 1 1 1
2011 MIN 12 12 208 970 4.7 54 12 18 139 22 1 1 0
2012 MIN 16 16 348 2,097 6.0 82T 12 40 217 20 1 4 2
2013 MIN 14 14 279 1,266 4.5 78T 10 29 171 22 1 5 3
2014 MIN 1 1 21 75 3.6 17 0 2 18 9 0 0 0
2015 MIN 16 16 327 1,485 4.5 80T 11 30 222 49 0 7 3
2016 MIN 3 3 37 72 1.9 13 0 3 8 7 0 1 1
2017 NO 4 1 27 81 3.0 11 0 2 4 2 0 0 0
ARI 6 6 129 448 3.5 27T 2 9 66 13 0 3 2
Career 133 123 2,574 12,276 4.8 82 99 252 2,015 63 5 42 25

Personal life

Peterson has a half-brother named Jaylon Brown who played running back on the football team at Klein Oak High School.[157] Another half-brother was murdered the night before Peterson participated in the NFL Combine. When Peterson was a teenager, his father was sentenced to 10 years in prison for laundering drug money.[158][159]

Peterson has six children.[160] His two-year-old son died on October 11, 2013, at a hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, due to injuries sustained during an alleged assault by Joseph Robert Patterson, the boyfriend of the child's mother. Peterson had learned about his son only a few weeks prior to his death, and had never met him.[161][162]

Peterson is a Christian. He spoke of his faith in relation to his injuries, "This is a blessing in disguise. I'll come back stronger and better than I was before. What flashed in my mind was, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me'."[163][164]

Criminal charges and suspension

Peterson was indicted by a Montgomery County, Texas grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child on September 12, 2014.[165] He was subsequently deactivated for one game by the Vikings.[166][167] Photos posted on revealed his 4-year-old son's legs with slash-like wounds.[168] Peterson’s 2014 NFL season was over after arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of the NFL on November 18, 2014, saying, “the league can keep Adrian Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list,” effectively terminating any possibility the Minnesota Vikings running back would play again that season.[169] The prosecution in the case alleged that Peterson used a tree branch to beat his young son repeatedly on his back, buttocks, genitals, ankles, and legs. Peterson described the implement as a "switch",[165] a form of punishment that was used on Peterson in his own childhood.[170]

On November 4, 2014, Peterson pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of recklessly assaulting his four-year-old son. He avoided a jail sentence after reaching a plea agreement with a court in Texas. He used a wooden implement to discipline his son in Spring, Texas in May and was put on probation and also fined $4,000. He was also ordered to undergo 80 hours of community service.[171] In December 2014, Harold Henderson, the NFL-appointed arbitrator for Peterson's appeal affirmed Peterson's unpaid suspension until at least spring 2015. However, the NFL Players Association called Henderson's objectivity into question and said it was "considering immediate legal remedies" to the decision.[172] On August 4, 2016, reported that the NFL won an appeal in a case against Peterson, reversing a ruling which overturned Peterson's suspension and fine. The original ruling resulted when Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge after injuring his son.[173]


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External links