Lions’ Adrian Peterson faces Vikings on Sunday in what could be his final NFL game

After 14 seasons and more than 14,000 yards rushing, could Sunday finally be the end of the line for Adrian Peterson?
The Detroit Lions running back will conclude the 2020 season with a home game against the Vikings, the team he starred for from 2007-16. It’s reasonable to suggest it could be final NFL game.
Peterson, who turns 36 in March, has played sparingly of late, managing just 14 carries for 40 yards over the past three games. He has 541 yards rushing this season but is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry, a full yard less than his career average.
Peterson has talked often about wanting to play until age 40, and there is no indication he will retire on his own after he becomes a free agent in March. But it remains to be seen if any team would be willing to sign him.
“Hopefully, it’s not his last game (Sunday),” said Peterson’s father, Nelson Peterson. “I think he still has a lot left in the tank, but it’s not up to you, it’s up to the people in the NFL.”
If Sunday is his last game, it would be suitable that it is against the Vikings, the team for which he made seven Pro Bowls and had seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons, including a high of 2,097 yards in 2012.
After being released by Washington just before the start of the season, Peterson was picked up by the Lions, and he had high hopes. The offensive coordinator to start the season was Darrell Bevell, who was the Vikings’ coordinator from 2006-10, a period that included Peterson’s first four seasons with the team and a time he produced 5,782 yards rushing for the Vikings.
Peterson rushed for 209 yards in the first three games this season before the Lions turned to rookie D’Andre Swift to handle much more of the running load. Even after Bevell replaced Matt Patricia to become Detroit’s head coach on Nov. 28, little has changed.
“He doesn’t like it,” Nelson Peterson said of his son’s role in the Lions’ offense. “Adrian’s a competitor. He likes to compete, but you’ve got to be a team player, and so he’s trying to do that.”
Peterson has not yet been available for comment this week. A Lions representative said he might hold a Zoom call on Thursday for Detroit-area reporters.
“Detroit is the only team that has been able to stop him in his 14-year career,” Nelson Peterson quipped about his son not getting the ball much. “They don’t want to give him the ball to protect Barry Sanders’ record.”
Peterson is fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 14,757 yards, and his father is referring to former Lions great Barry Sanders sitting at fourth with 15,269.
Peterson has talked many times over the years about breaking Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record of 18,355 yards. But he might be running out of chances to get to 15,000.
“I’m sure a lot of people are saying this might be his last game, but I think he could compete a couple more years personally because of the way he takes care of himself,” said Chuck Foreman, a Vikings star running back from 1973-79. “I think a lot of (NFL) people are going to emphasize his age. Maybe he’s (going to be) 36, but he could probably outwork anybody that’s 23.”
If Sunday does turn out to be Peterson’s final game, Foreman said it could be fitting that it’s against the Vikings.
“It might be the best to time to give (the ball) to him because the Vikings don’t seem to be tackling anybody,” Foreman said. “If I’m Detroit, I’m giving it to him and letting him run.”
In a 52-33 loss last Friday at New Orleans, the Vikings gave up 583 yards, including 264 on the ground; both are the most allowed in Mike Zimmer’s seven seasons as head coach. Saints running back Alvin Kamara tied NFL records with six rushing and total touchdowns.
Zimmer said the Vikings missed 17 tackles against the Saints, and that will be a point of emphasis against the Lions. And now they will try to wrap up Peterson, who will play his fourth game against his former team since the Vikings decided not to re-sign him as a free agent after the 2016 season.
In the three previous meetings, all at U.S. Bank Stadium, Peterson rushed for 18 yards on six carries in 2017 with New Orleans, 76 yards on 14 attempts last year for Washington and 29 yards on eight carries for the Lions in a 34-20 loss on Nov. 8.
“I wouldn’t put much past him as far as how long he’s going to play,” said safety Harrison Smith, Peterson’s Vikings teammate from 2012-16. “But playing against Adrian is always kind of a cool proposition because I had some good years playing with him here, watching him be great. So, playing against him is always a great opportunity, just because of who he is and what he’s meant to the Vikings.”
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