Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t exactly known for his subtlety. It’s therefore not at all surprising that a private phone conversation between Jones and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson regarding the possibility of Peterson becoming a Cowboy magically made its way into national headlines.
Regardless of whether the NFL deems their interaction an example of tampering or not, the conversation reveals a potentially troubling realization for Vikings fans. It now seems possible that Peterson is intent on leaving Minnesota sooner rather than later.
A native Texan, Peterson is likely intrigued by the thought of playing in Dallas. Considering the franchise has produced five Super Bowl Champions, plays its home games in the billion-dollar AT&T Stadium and is consistently ranked by Forbes as the NFL’s most valuable outfit, the lure of wearing silver and blue for “America’s Team” would be tempting to any player.
For Peterson, the need to leave Minnesota might feel a bit more urgent. Since he first came into the league in 2007, Peterson has appeared in six Pro Bowls, been named first-team All-Pro three times and rushed for more than 10,000 yards while scoring 86 touchdowns. By any measure, Peterson ranks amongst the best running backs in the league’s history.
The Vikings’ record during those years is less impressive. So far, Minnesota has gone 54-52-1 in Peterson’s career with three playoff appearances. While the Vikings fell in the NFC Championship against the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in 2009, they haven’t advanced past the Wild Card round in either of their other two playoff showings with Peterson toting the pigskin.
Running backs have a short shelf-life, and for Peterson, each passing year marks another season of wear-and-tear on a body that is already showing signs of breaking down. He’s been troubled by a myriad of injuries recently, including the current groin ailment that has held him out of the squad’s preseason contests. Add it all up and Peterson might be considering more options than ever before.
Granted, the Cowboys are hardly in a position of power themselves. Over the past four years, Dallas has gone 6-10, 8-8, 8-8 and 8-8. Those numbers don’t exactly suggest Jones’ team is any closer to turning the corner than the Vikings. Nevertheless, Texas is home for the hulking ball-carrier and playing for the league’s most glamorous franchise is sure to carry plenty of appeal.
Minnesota seems keenly aware of that fact. After watching Christian Ponder flail about for three years, they finally pulled the plug and drafted a promising rookie in Teddy Bridgewater. With Bridgewater and current-starter Matt Cassel, the Vikings feel a bit more settled at the quarterback spot.
Where Minnesota needed the most help was on a defense that ranked 32nd in the league in points allowed. Even with promising rookie linebacker Anthony Barr and skilled safety Harrison Smith roaming the secondary, the Vikings have plenty to prove on defense.
In other words, the Vikings are facing the difficulty of rebuilding while also managing pressure to win now. Thankfully, new coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t seem the type to sidestep that fact. General manager Rick Spielman must also be feeling the heat considering his job may be on the line if Bridgewater doesn’t pan out.
Through it all, Peterson has remained a dutiful asset to Minnesota. He’s played with quarterbacks ranging from Brett Favre to Ponder and has rarely complained when team has experienced struggles.
Peterson undoubtedly knows the clock is ticking on his storied career, however. If his conversation with Jones indicates anything, it’s that the same may true of his time in Minnesota.