Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a goal to break Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record. To do that, the 29-year-old Peterson will need to stay healthy well into his 30s. And Peterson says that’s his top priority.
Asked why he thinks he’ll still be going strong at an age when most running backs are done, Peterson told Dan Pompei of Sports on Earth, “Taking care of your body. Making sure your body is battle proof and able to withstand the punishment a running back goes though. It’s doing the small things — ice tub, cold tub, massages, making sure you help your body rejuvenate.”
But it’s more than just taking care of his body between games and during the offseason. Peterson says he is increasingly learning to avoid unnecessary hits on the field. As a young player Peterson might have put his head down and tried to run over a defender after picking up five yards on second-and-4, but now Peterson says that he won’t take an extra hit for an extra yard — unless his team really needs it.
“There comes a point in time when you know the extra yard really doesn’t matter if you already have the first down, and you know you aren’t going to get it,” he said. “Or I’m sprinting to the sideline and two guys are chasing me with an angle. I know I’m not going to get the corner on them. Earlier in my career, I would have dug in and have that contact for two extra yards, but now it depends on the situation. If I’m trying to get the first down, I’m dipping my shoulder and going for it. First down accomplished, I can step out.”
If that approach slightly reduces Peterson’s yardage totals while greatly increasing his chances of staying healthy, it’s the right way to play.