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The Great Debate


Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (left) and Cardinals tackle Levi Brown (right) were each top-seven picks in the 2007 draft.

Levi Brown has big plans. He wants to make Pro Bowls. He'd like to become Hall of Fame-worthy. He certainly plans on being a mainstay at tackle for the Cardinals for a long time.

What he doesn't have much interest in is reliving the 2007 draft, the one in which the Cardinals decided to take him at No. 5 overall to anchor the offensive line of the future – and passing on running back Adrian Peterson, who went to the Vikings two picks later.

Brown is a smart man, understanding the questions were coming this week with Peterson and the Vikings visiting the Cardinals Sunday. But he was brief on the subject.

"I mean, that has nothing to do with me," Brown said. "I was not the one who drafted me. I just come and do what I have to do."

The debate raged before the draft, especially when it became clear the Cardinals, looking for a replacement for departed free agent Leonard Davis at tackle, would not have a chance to take the highly-rated Joe Thomas (picked third overall by Cleveland).

With Edgerrin James already in place at running back and gaping holes on the offensive line, Brown was a more obvious choice despite Peterson's talents.

"If you told me we could take Levi Brown and be division champions in our second year, I'd say 'Sign me up,' " Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think (Levi) has done a good job. Our sack totals in terms of protecting the quarterback have been very good. Obviously we haven't run the ball as well as we wanted to, but we are doing a number of good things offensively.  That starts up front.

"One of the first things we said when we got here was we wanted to solidify our lines, both offensively and defensively, and that was our thinking."

Coincidentally, the Cardinals and Vikings were each 8-8 during Brown and Peterson's rookie seasons. Both teams are 8-5 this season and on top of their respective divisions – although the Cards have already clinched the NFC West title.

At right tackle, Brown is part of an offensive line in which all five men have started every game for the highest-scoring team in the NFL. Peterson leads the NFL with 1,416 yards rushing, a stark contrast to the Cards' troubles running the football.

"Dang, he's in a league of his own," Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said.

Peterson said he considered getting drafted anywhere in the top 10 "a blessing" because he was coming off a broken collarbone his final year at the University of Oklahoma. There were some questions about Peterson's long-term ability to stay healthy.

"I didn't really have an idea where I might end up," Peterson said. "I kind of picked some different teams like Arizona, because Edgerrin James was getting up in age. But it worked out good for me with the Vikings."

Vikings coach Brad Childress raved about Peterson, both as a player and a person. Even though Minnesota already had a 1,000-yard rusher in Chester Taylor, Childress said he learned as a college coach that trying to defend multiple running backs was a problem for the opposition.

"There's no downside to having two of those guys," Childress said. "There's room for both of them."

The storyline of Brown and Peterson was obvious as soon as the Vikings appeared on the Cards' prospective 2008 schedule late last season. And such a connection can affect some players.

Calvin Pace was dogged by the fact the Cardinals traded out of a chance to select local favorite Terrell Suggs and instead took Pace in 2003, a fact Pace never quite got over all the way until he left as a free agent last offseason.

Brown's personality doesn't seem like it will allow a similar problem, although Brown and Peterson will likely always be linked in Arizona. Asked if he would mind being the answer to a trivia question one day, Brown said he wasn't sure.

"Depends on how the trivia question is going to go," Brown said. "If it is, 'What future Hall of Famer is from the same (draft) class as Peterson,' then yeah.

"Something else," Brown added with a chuckle, "then no."

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 12/10/08.

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