Adrian Peterson is still chasing Emmitt Smith. And the soon-to-be 36-year-old running back says he has no plans to stop short of catching the NFL’s all-time rushing king.
In an interview this week with TMZ, the Palestine, Texas native says it’s his intention to play- and put up big-time stats- for another four years at least. “I want to live to be a 40-year-old back out there rushing for 1,500 yards and amazing people still,” the seven-time Pro Bowler said.
“I’m going to keep playing, trying to chase the championship,” Peterson continued, “and, God’s willing, within the process of doing that, I’m able to catch Emmitt and pass him.”
Smith has 18,355 rushing yards on the ledger. The vast majority of those came while wearing a Cowboys uniform; he broke Walter Payton’s longstanding mark (16,726) in 2002, at the age of 33. After amassing 17,162 yards, Smith was released by Dallas. He played another 25 games over two seasons in Arizona, finally retiring after the 2004 season.
Peterson is fifth on the all-time list, with 14,820 yards. He needs another 3,536 to pass Smith. That will be a tall order, especially given Peterson’s productivity over recent years. He totaled just 604 yards last season in Detroit. The year prior, in Washington, he hit 898. And while he did barely break the 1,000-yard mark in 2018, he compiled only 529 the season prior while doing stints with both the Cardinals and Saints.
That’s 3,073 yards over four seasons. On four different teams.
The “1,500 yards” he referenced wanting to put up as a 40-year-old? The Oklahoma product hasn’t hit that milestone in a season since 2012, when he was named the league’s MVP. When he was 27.
Clearly, Peterson is still physically impressive and is more than capable of churning his legs, dishing out punishment, and chewing up yardage. And he remains one of the league’s most durable players, even at a high-impact position. But to catch Emmitt, he would have to turn up the pace considerably. He would probably need to stick with one team for the next several years, and be that team’s unquestioned bell cow back just to get enough carries to even move the needle closer to Smith’s figures.
And, of course, there is the matter of Peterson not currently being on a roster.
The free agent will almost assuredly land somewhere for 2021. Plenty of teams can find a use for a veteran change-of-pace runner or a dependable backup in the running back room. It’s not difficult to imaging Peterson latching on as a role player with a club who makes a championship run, giving the future Hall of Famer his elusive Super Bowl ring. But unless Peterson suddenly falls into a situation where he is once again “the guy” for an extended period of time, basic math suggests that he’ll have a serious uphill climb if he truly expects to pass Emmitt Smith on the mountaintop of all-time rushers.
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