Lions’ Adrian Peterson showing he can still carry the load ‘All Day’ at age 35

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Adrian Peterson always has been a freak of nature. It’s not just the fact that he’s one of the most productive running backs in NFL history, but also the staggering speed he’s been able to recover from devastating injury. 

The prime example is when Peterson tore his ACL during a Christmas Eve game in 2011 only to return in time for the season opener next year, where he ran for 84 yards in two touchdowns. 

Only the most physically gifted among us could do something like that. 

So when Peterson goes out and takes 22 carries on Sunday, at 35 years and 190 days of age, we might take that for granted. But do you realize how rare that feat is? According to data tracked by Pro Football Reference, only two other running backs in league history have handled that heavy of a workload at that age or older, Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and John Riggins. 

And while the Lions have a deep backfield, with a pair of second-round draft picks in Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift to round out the rotation, it sure sounds like Peterson is going to be the lead option for the time being. 

“I don’t know where that wall is or when he’s going to hit it,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “The guy is always asking for more. He is in great shape. He takes care of his body. He does all those little things to set himself up for that success. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but he wants it (and) we want him to have it and we’ll just keep continuing to go there and spell him with Kerryon, spell him with Swift and kind of go from there.”

Talk to enough professional football players and you’ll get used to hearing them describe feeling like they’ve been in a car wreck the Monday after the game. And, as you might expect, recovery only gets harder with age.

But Peterson, after absorbing approximately two dozen hits over 40 snaps against the Cardinals, he’s fine. Well, there was one part of his body that was a little sore. 

“To be honest with you, my shins got beat up a little bit because (Cardinals safety) Budda (Baker) and all those other guys going at my legs,” Peterson said. “Outside of that, my body feels really good. Taking I had 22 carries, I was looking forward to see how I felt when I woke up. And I felt rather fresh.”

Seriously, who is this guy? 

Lions running back coach Kyle Caskey is taking the same approach as Bevell — he’ll keep giving Peterson all the work he can handle until the veteran asks him to ease up. As you might imagine with a guy who carries the nickname “All Day,” that scenario is probably not in the cards. 

“If I have an injury or something that I’m grinding through, like a high-ankle sprain or something like that, I’ll tell him like give me a day off on those days where we’re going third-down stuff, where obviously I’m in there sometimes, but not that much,” Peterson said. “It really doesn’t turn out to be an off day because I’m doing a lot of cardio, whether that’s an underwater treadmill to take the pressure off. And I’m still getting in some good, quality work in, extra lifts and things like that. No, I’m one of those guys that believe in the work you put in during the week, you practice how you play, so the last thing I’m trying to do is get out of practice.”

That mentality extends beyond the season. During the offseason, Peterson trains at O Athletik, back home in Texas. He surrounds himself with young talent who push him to continually compete to be the best version of himself he can be. 

“It’s one thing to go and work out and go through the motions, just get through the workout,” he said. “It’s another thing to mentally lock in and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to give everything I have to this workout.’ That’s how you’re able to become strong mentally and push your body to a different level, because you’ve experienced that burn that makes a lot of people shut down.”

It goes without saying, no one plays forever. And, as noted, few running backs ever reach the point Peterson is at now. So how long does he think he can keep doing this? Maybe another season or two? Nah, try five. 

“I think 40 (years old) is a good number,” he said. “Forty is a good number.”

And while you might doubt him because that seems absurd, his teammates don’t.

“The way that he’s moving and stuff like that, I think he definitely can,” Lions receiver Marvin Jones said. “I think that’s an easy call.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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