METAIRIE, La. (AP) Adrian Peterson scoffs at the notion that a decade in the NFL and a pair of knee injuries have somehow left him a worn down, less effective version of his former dominant self.
”It’s kind of crazy to hear people even comment on how many years I have left and compare me to other running backs when I’m just my own individual,” Peterson, who signed with New Orleans Saints last week, said while on a conference call hosted by his new club Tuesday.
”There’s a different mindset, work ethic, body type,” Peterson continued. ”This is one thing that I really just dislike about the NFL and kind of how a lot of people try to put guys in a box – especially running backs after that 30 (years old) mark. … They make it seem like guys are going downhill and that’s not necessarily the case – and so in my mind, I feel like I have a lot of years left.”
The Saints are hoping the 32-year-old Peterson, who missed most of last season because of a meniscal tear, has at least one good year left. The Saints signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract for which only the first year is guaranteed.
Having only played for the Minnesota Vikings – the Saints’ Week 1 opponent this September – during his 10-year career, Peterson has posted seven 1,000-yard seasons and once eclipsed 2,000 yards. His best season, in 2012, came after his first major knee injury, a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament.
After sticking with Peterson through his first knee injury and legal trouble in 2014 related to physical punishment of his then-4-year-old son, the Vikings decided this offseason to decline a costly option on Peterson’s contract that would have eaten up about $18 million in salary cap space in 2017. That allowed the star running back to walk in free agency.
Peterson said he had productive meetings with New England and Seattle and had penciled in meetings with other teams after the draft, but decided he would be happiest in New Orleans – even though the Saints, led by quarterback Drew Brees, boasted the NFL’s top passing offense last season and also have incumbent starting running back Mark Ingram on the roster.
”Ultimately, what it came down to for me was the comfort level I had when I visited here in New Orleans – just the feel that I had for the city and the organization,” Peterson said.
”I could have easily said, `You know what? I’ll wait `till the draft and take these other couple visits.’ … I could’ve went that route, but ultimately, in my heart, in my soul, in my spirit, playing for the Saints is what felt right.”
Peterson added that he’s eager to work with Ingram to improve the Saints’ running game.
”I am going to put my arm around that guy and teach him all I can teach him. We are going to do this thing together,” Peterson said. ”Obviously, I know what type of offense New Orleans runs and it has kind of been that way for years now, and there has always been multiple backs in their system. I knew what I was getting myself into and I am comfortable with that.”
Peterson also asserted that he is ”100 percent” physically, noting that his knee injury was fully healed before last season ended, and that it was an abductor injury that sidelined him for the final couple of games of 2016.
”I am back to doing everything that I did before the injury – but better.”
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