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The Workload Of Ageless Adrian Peterson

Posted Nov 6, 2017

After most carries ever by 30-plus-year-old running back, Thursday game with Seahawks looms

Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson breaks out for some of his 159 yards rushing Sunday against the 49ers.

Drew Stanton came into the Cardinals’ facility the Monday after the team beat the Buccaneers a couple weeks ago, a day after Adrian Peterson had rumbled for 134 yards on 26 carries in his Arizona debut.

There was a box Stanton estimated at more than five feet high.

“Me and Carson (Palmer) were wondering, ‘Who’s doing this?’ ”the quarterback recalled Monday, and getting the answer from strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris: It was Peterson, using it for box jumps.

“And then he went (outside) and ran 16 110s and beat everybody,” Stanton said. “It’s like, ‘OK.’ It speaks volumes about the type of professional he is. For guys that are able to sustain success over a long period of time, it doesn’t happen out of dumb luck. He takes care of his body and he’s meticulous in what he does, and he’s blessed with good fortune and good genes.”

The Cardinals are hoping all that comes into play this week, when they have to host the Seahawks Thursday night and Peterson has just three days to recover from a career-high 37 carries he had Sunday in San Francisco.

Running backs who are 32 or older – which Peterson is – don’t carry it that much. The 37 carries, in fact, were more than any NFL running back ever that was at least 30 years old. The previous record-holder, Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis, had 36 in a December, 2004, game – a game in which current Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was the Steelers’ wide receivers coach.

“I don’t think Jerome ever had 37, and he’d have been tapping out in a heartbeat, getting Willie Parker in there,” Arians said with a smile.

Peterson shrugged off concerns of his heavy workload, insisting the short week wouldn’t be an issue. If anything, he was upset he didn’t gain more than the 159 yards he got because of missed opportunities at the line.

“I know there’s a lot of running backs that are probably retired and sitting back watching this game, it was easily 100-and-something yards that was left out there,” Peterson said. “Great tackles by (the 49ers), shoelace-missed opportunities on my end.”

Arians said the coaches want Peterson to be a little more patient and it would pay off in longer runs, and maybe a little less wear-and-tear (Pro Football Focus said Peterson had 110 of his 159 yards after contact.)

Peterson could manage 1,000 yards this season, despite his near-absent start when he was in New Orleans and the fact he can play a maximum of 15 games total because of the trade. He needs to average 76 yards a game over the last eight, possible if the Cardinals continue to feed him.

Peterson is now 14th all-time in the NFL in rushing. He could conceivably climb as high as ninth by the end of the season, needing 598 yards to get past current No. 9 Tony Dorsett, and going past Marcus Allen, Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown in the process.

Of those 13 players above Peterson on the all-time list, only Smith and Payton ran for 1,000 yards at age 32 or older.

Of the 13 players ahead of him on the all-time rushing list, only seven had as many as 26 carries in a game at age 32 or later. One was former Cardinal Emmitt Smith, who had 26 carries (for 106 yards) in a win over Seattle in 2004 when Smith was 35.

According to Profootballreference.com, Walter Payton had only had two games of at least 30 carries at this age, both in the 1986 season, when he was 32. Curtis Martin had 31 carries once. Still-active Frank Gore has had two 30-plus carry games, Tony Dorsett did it once, Marcus Allen once.

Bettis did carry at least 30 times in a game six times in the season when he was 32, although he didn’t even reach 1,000 yards for the season.

Peterson won’t have 37 carries against the Seahawks Thursday, not with it not only a short week but Seattle featuring a better defensive front. And again, Peterson isn’t 22 anymore.

Then again …

“(Adrian) runs in the walkthrough,” Arians said. “He’s amazing. I wouldn’t challenge him in any form or fashion saying, ‘You’re only going to get 20.’ Because I’ll probably have to fight him on the sideline.”

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