It’s a lofty goal for any running back entering the NFL, but not everyone is Adrian Peterson. If anyone in the recent future has a shot at dethroning Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith atop the league’s all-time rushing list, it’s Peterson, and that’s at least one bullseye he’s aiming for as he enters his 14th year in the league. The 35-year-old is not showing any signs of slowing down after rushing for 898 yards in 2019 and 1,940 yards total over his last two seasons with the Washington Football Team and, as such, isn’t entertaining any talk of retirement. Instead, he’s already noted he’s hoping to play another four years in the NFL, which he sees as an opportunity to give Smith a run for his money.

“Why not four more years?” he recently posited.

First and foremost, however, Peterson’s goal is to finally obtain the ever elusive Lombardi trophy, having not yet appeared in a Super Bowl in his illustrious Hall of Fame career. That being the obvious top priority doesn’t negate his other mission, though. 

“Winning a championship is the one I want most,” Peterson told NFL Network, via Pro Football Talk. “That’s one of the goals I set to myself when I entered the NFL was to pass the GOAT.”

Of course, this will be easier said than done.

Peterson currently sits at 14,216 career rushing yards and needs 4,140 more to push Smith (18,355) into the No. 2 spot, meaning the former would need to average 1,035 yards per year if he plays another four seasons, and a chunky 1,380 yards per year if he retires after the next three. This is made that much more difficult by the fact Peterson is entering a contract year in Washington that will see the team take yet another several swings at trying to identify the future at the position, and it’s that process that could cost Peterson some reps going forward. 

Should someone other than Peterson step up big in 2020, it could also see him looking for employment elsewhere come 2021 and should he succeed in doing so, it’s extremely unlikely it would be a three- or four-year deal landing for a running back who’d then be 36 years old — even if his name is Adrian Peterson. This means Peterson could find himself looking for new landing spots presumably each year until he hangs up his cleats en route to the Hall of Fame, and there’s never a guarantee he’d garner enough reps to average the numbers required from here on out to surpass Smith. Add to this the fact NFL teams are annually looking to go younger at running back and not older, and you’re starting to see what Peterson is truly up against.

That’s why, for his part, while Peterson is going to do his best to nudge past “the GOAT,” he’s also keenly self-aware. That means admitting his four-year goal might end up being only three, or two, if not just one.

“I look forward to playing a couple more years,” he said, being at least open to the possibility of a retirement sooner than later. “Three to four more years, who knows, depending on how my body is feeling.”

Peterson will go down as one of the best backs to ever play the game, but unless he beats all of the aforementioned odds — including the consummate battle between age and durability — he’ll fall short of Smith’s throne. To be fair though, he’s made an entire career out of doing just that: 

Beating the odds.


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