Did Suspension Cost Adrian Peterson a Chance at Emmitt Smith’s Rushing Record?


Adrian Peterson’s almost-year-long benching-that-was-really-a-suspension cost him a lot in terms of personal reputation and endorsement money. And it may also have cost him any chance at breaking Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record.

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Peterson went into 2014 needing 8,241 yards to surpass Smith’s career total of 18,355. After amassing only 75 yards in one game last year, the soon-to-be-30-year-old Peterson still needs 8,166 yards to pass the Hall of Famer as the NFL’s most prolific ground-gainer.

Just to give you a feel for how daunting that task is: 8,166 yards is more than legendary Dolphins RB Larry Csonka ran for in his entire career. To pass Smith, Peterson needs to add Larry Csonka’s entire career output to his own stats plus change. AFTER 30.

If you ask Adrian Peterson he will tell you this is no big deal. The guy who came back from a catastrophic knee blow-out in record time can do anything, right?

Not everyone is so convinced. Daryl Johnston, the man who blocked for Emmitt Smith for much of his record-setting career, thinks the suspension robbed Adrian of his shot at the mark (via Pioneer-Press):

"“Yes,” Johnston said about Smith’s record now being safe from Peterson. “Adrian had gotten into that discussion with the way that he was playing, but I think it would be very, very difficult for him to be able to do that now just because he missed last year.”"

Numbers back up Johnston’s assertion. Had Adrian managed just an average AD year in 2014, around 1,400 yards, he would now stand at around 11,500. That would have still left him needing roughly another five seasons at his average career output in order to challenge Smith. So, with Peterson entering his 30s needing to average roughly 1400 yards for six seasons in order to make a serious run at the record…

You can understand why people are skeptical.

Adrian’s diehard supporters will point out that along with missing an entire season, Peterson also was saved a year of wear-and-tear on his body, and that should allow him to be productive later into his ’30s. But there are also questions about how well Peterson maintained his body during his suspension. You also have to wonder if Peterson’s travails might not sap some of his will to compete and leave him contemplating early retirement.

But there’s a bigger question for Viking fans: Will Peterson continue his career, and his ever-more-unlikely run at Smith’s record, in Vikings purple? Or will he end up making his run at history in another uniform?

Very little is certain as regards Peterson’s future. But one thing I think you can pretty well bank on? He won’t be catching Emmitt Smith. That ship sailed the second the Vikings placed Peterson on the exempt list, putting him at the mercy of Roger Goodell.

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