At various points the past few years, James Conner and Adrian Peterson probably weren’t thinking about being named AFC and NFC offensive player of the week.
For Week 8, each was given the player of the week honors. Conner had 200 total yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a win over the Cleveland Browns. Peterson had 149 rushing yards for the Washington Redskins as they improved to 5-2 with a win over the New York Giants.
Nobody could have predicted this: Conner is third in the NFL in rushing yards this season and Peterson is fifth. Both players are amazing stories, in much different ways.
James Conner beat cancer to become NFL star
Conner beat cancer to become one of the NFL’s most productive backs. He had Hodgkin lymphoma, stage 2b. He had a large mass in his chest and got chemotherapy. He missed nearly the entire 2015 college season.
It’s amazing where he is three years later. Conner came back for one more productive college season at Pitt, which was incredible enough given what he had been through. He was drafted by the Steelers, and sat behind Le’Veon Bell last year as a rookie. Then Bell held out, and a new story was written in Pittsburgh.
Conner is averaging 131.7 yards from scrimmage per game this season. When (if?) Bell reports this season he’ll get some of Conner’s playing time, but it says something about how good Conner has been that the two-time All-Pro Bell won’t resume his normal role upon his return. Conner has earned a large share of the carries.
And once the Steelers and Bell part ways, the team will be confident they’ve found their new star back.
Adrian Peterson defying odds at age 33
The fifth-leading rusher in the NFL, a lock Hall of Famer, was unsigned from mid-March to Aug. 20.
Peterson looked near the end of the line last season. He didn’t fit with the New Orleans Saints, was shipped to the Arizona Cardinals, and aside from two big games with the Cardinals he seemed in the “Tony Dorsett with the Broncos” stage of his career. Apparently NFL teams felt the same way because nobody signed him over the long offseason.
The Redskins probably wouldn’t have signed him either, but rookie Derrius Guice blew out his ACL in the team’s first preseason game. After another preseason game, Washington realized it needed some help at running back. They worked out a group of veterans and signed Peterson, who is 33 years old. That decision changed their season.
Peterson is having a potentially historic season. John Riggins holds the record for rushing yards in a season by a back who is 33 or older, with 1,347 in 1983. Peterson is on pace for 1,352. Only six times in NFL history has a back gained more than 1,000 yards after their 33rd birthday.
Peterson and Conner beat pretty long odds in different ways, and both are among the best stories of the 2018 season.
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