Zulgad: Clock is ticking so enjoy Peterson's greatness while you can
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
It has become easy to take Adrian Peterson for granted.
He seems to like it that way.
Peterson tears up his knee but returns to rush for 2,097 yards and win the NFL MVP the following season? No big deal, he says with a smile, leaving open the door that he just might have superhuman skills. Offseason surgeries become a regular occurrence? Don't worry, Peterson says, when the new season starts he'll be ready to go.
Thus, the assumption has become that the Pro Bowl running back, one of the best to ever play his position, always will be there. Wearing that No. 28 purple jersey and destroying any defenders who attempt to take him on.
Unfortunately for Peterson and Vikings fans this isn't true. And it's exactly why we need to stop taking Peterson's greatness for granted in 2014.
Peterson would love for everyone to believe that he really is superhuman, but that's not the case. He's a remarkable athlete, with recuperative skills that are off the charts and an attitude that every coach would love to duplicate in his players, but Peterson can't fight one thing.
He will turn 30 years old on March 21 and, as everyone who follows the NFL knows, that age is a magic number, not in a good way, for guys who make a living carrying the football. Peterson can ignore this all he wants but eventually age, and salary, are going to catch up to him.
Peterson will enter his final NFL season in his 20s already having become the Vikings' all-time leading rusher with 10,115 yards on 2,033 carries and 86 touchdowns in seven seasons. The next closest Vikings' running back to Peterson in terms of carries is Bill Brown, who had 1,627 from 1962 to 1974.
Peterson also has caught 206 passes for 1,697 yards and five touchdowns and returned 17 kickoffs between 2007 and 2008. That is 2,256 all-purpose touches since Peterson joined the Vikings as the seventh-overall pick of the 2007 draft.
This is not to say I don't think Peterson will have a good season and, in fact, I think he might be reinvigorated playing in the offense that new coordinator Norv Turner is installing. Turner is likely to find ways to get Peterson more involved in the passing game and might be able to take some hits off of him at the line of scrimmage.
But Turner and his boss, Mike Zimmer, didn't come to Minnesota to build around Peterson. That's not how the NFL works. Their long-term focus will be centered on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, one of the Vikings' first-round picks, and a passing attack that should make a star out of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and feature plenty of tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Peterson is a marvelous talent at a position that's no longer seen as one of the most important in an NFL offense. Having a Pro Bowl running back is fine, but this league is all about what can be done through the air.
That means that even if Peterson does defy time, his contract is going to catch up to him and he's either going to have to swallow his pride and accept a restructured deal, or the Vikings will move on.
Don't believe it? Then consider that Peterson's salary-cap number will be $14.4 million for this season, $15.4 million for 2015, $15 million for 2016 and $17 million for 2017.
If players such as Bridgewater and Patterson develop as expected, eventually they are going to be looking for big pay days, as are guys on defense, and having a running back in his 30s taking up that much cap space isn't going to make sense. Honestly, it's somewhat difficult to believe the Vikings are going to want to take that type of cap hit next season and they certainly won't want to in their first year in Zygi Wilf's new stadium in 2016.
This means sooner rather than later Peterson's brilliant run in Minnesota is going to come to an end. It also means that it's time for us to stopping taking Peterson's abilities for granted and realize how lucky we are to be able to watch the final seasons of his run toward Canton.
For additional listening, here is the latest Purple Podcast featuring 1500ESPN.com Vikings analyst Andrew Krammer going over his projected 53-man roster: