Few football heads outside of Minnesota are talking about the X-Factor in the NFC North and why the Vikings have a puncher’s chance to take the division or get a Wild Card berth.
Everybody is high on the Aaron Rodgers gravy train and picking Green Bay to torch the NFC North, but ignoring the potential impact of Adrian Peterson's return is a grave mistake.
Not just because Purple Jesus was the NFL’s premier back before a nine-month absence from the team stretching back to when Peterson was indicted on Sept. 12 of the 2014 season for injuring his child while disciplining him with a switch.
He’s had almost a full year off to rest his body and come out dipping, slipping and ripping defenders and he won’t have to be the feature show anymore because Minny’s starship is at signal caller and that’s the formula of any Super Bowl caliber team.
In criminal court, Peterson pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault as part of a plea deal with prosecutors to resolve his felony child abuse case.
As part of the deal, Peterson avoided jail time and instead was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine, court costs and 80 hours of community service.
In the court of public opinion he was given the death penalty as his case sparked national debates about child abuse and the when parental discipline ventures into assault.
Peterson was reluctant to admit to any wrongdoing at first, standing by his philosophy of harsh punishment, but eventually fed the demands of the public and admitted his guilt.
"I truly regret this incident," Peterson said outside the courthouse after the case was over. "I stand here and take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine. I am looking forward to and I am anxious to continue my relationship with my child."
Now he’s getting ready to lace up his cleats once again and rejoin the Vikings community that he was fractured from just a few years ago. There was talk that Peterson wouldn’t return to Minnesota because he felt abandoned by the organization.
A guy who was once known as the personification of courage and resilience and a role model for all aspiring ballers, became public enemy No. 1. He was viewed as a monster by so many adults who grew up in households where violence ruled the reasoning.
Regardless of how he fared in his criminal case, the Vikings didn’t want any part of AP for the remainder of the 2014 season and his NFL future was up in limbo for awhile. After the smoke cleared, the two sides reconciled and now Peterson’s returning to a better team than the one he left. This squad has a go-hard defense, a new hotshot QB in Teddy Bridgewater with a chip on his shoulder and Super Bowl dreams (not sure what kind, maybe pipe).
Nobody is really talking about the effect AP (more motivated, ornery and humbled than ever) will have on Minnesota this season. That’s a grave mistake as well.
I told you back in 2012, that this guy bounces back from adversity like a 15-foot long rubber band snapping back after ripping loose from a jet plane traveling at Mach 1. Adversity is not something that demoralizes him. He almost expects it in his life and it has served as inspiration for a greater more positive goal every time.
The trials and tribulations of his amazing life were chronicled in TSL’s 2012 piece,Cuts, Cracks and Comebacks:
Adrian Peterson has a golden life littered with roadblocks, tragedies, injuries, loss and heartache, but beaming with success. His pops named him “All Day” because he never stops. The hood named him Purple Jesus because he’s the No. 1 pigskin peddler on the NFL set. Take his total life experiences into account and he’s really The Comeback Kid.
Peterson learned the art of resilience at a young age. He lost his older brother, Brian, to a drunk driver and used football as medication. He starred in Pee Wee football and his dad – a former shooting guard at Idaho State, whose NBA aspirations were shattered by an accidental shooting – was the coach.
When Peterson was 13, his father was bagged for laundering money for a racket and went to prison. The lure of drug money entrapped his dad, a Wal-Mart truck driver with 10 kids, making just $8 an hour. It was a tremendous loss to a black family trying to survive in The Lone Star State. With his mother as support, however, Peterson rebounded strongly in his dad’s absence. He did his thing in basketball, track and football, creating a future for himself beyond Palestine, Texas.
Remember what happened in 2012?
Less than 10 months after surgery for a torn ACL and MCL ruined his 2011 campaign and raised questions about the possibility of him ever playing again, Peterson returned and boosted a Minnesota team that was 3-12 in 2011 to a 10-6 record and a playoff Wild Card appearance.
He not only made the greatest major knee recovery ever for a running back, but he won the NFL MVP and rushed for an astounding 2,097 yards, nearly breaking the single-season rushing record of 2,105 set by the incomparable and statuesque Eric Dickerson in 1984.
AP kept it moving with a heavy heart and kept toting for the purple and gold in 2013 when his two-year-old son died at the hands of one of his baby mama’s boyfriends.
That was another rough year for Purple Jesus. He made it through 14 dazzling games and then in early December in a snow game against the Ravens, he was awkwardly tackled and lay face down in the snow in agony as something popped in his foot and ended his season.
It’s ironic that as Peterson returns from being “outcasted” from the NFL, the Vikings community and the game that has been his saving grace in life, Joseph Patterson, the man accused of killing Peterson’s son two years ago is set to stand trial.
Patterson pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in the 2013 death of Tyrese Robert Ruffin, who was the son of his girlfriend and Peterson. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Tuesday in Canton, about 20 miles southeast of Sioux Falls.
As the chapter begins to close on his son Tyrese’s tragic life, Peterson has gained new purpose after rejoining the Vikings in June.
Motivation has always been the key to his success and the way he has chipped and chunked his way through every problem he’s encountered is by playing his tail off on the gridiron and winning the support of the fans. Minnesota won’t hesitate to forgive his indiscretions, unpolished parenting and harsh expressions of tough love if he’s the same game-changing, dynamic back he’s been in the past.
But with all due respect to AP, the running back position in the NFL has lost some luster, but having a clock-containing, defensive front-line draining, monster of a talent lurking in your backfield, only helps a young QB.
Just ask Russell Wilson. Marshawn Lynch and a hellacious defense lifted Seattle to Super Bowl prominence. Minnesota has a young, potentially dominant defense and Bridgewater has many of the same physical and leadership attributes Wilson possesses.
When Peterson returned to the Vikings, he said, "I am just glad this is over. I can put this behind me and me and my family can begin to move forward."
With their living legend back in the fold, Vikings Nation can also move forward with no regrets. Don’t sleep on Minny. And even if we try to ignore him, Purple Jesus is going to make us respect his gridiron gangster.
At some point in the Viking’s Monday Night Football opener against the San Francisco 49ers, AP will make his mark and make the game all about the running back. Fans often forget about the art of off tackle running and straight power bursts, but when Peterson is on deck, anything is possible. The game needs him.