Vikings' Peterson with runaway performance on field, and in voting

Updated: January 2, 2008, 4:47 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Adrian Peterson is impressed. Not so much by his achievements, though he ran away with The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting the same way he surged past opposing tacklers this season.

What has gotten the attention of the Minnesota Vikings running back is whom he joins as winners of the award.

"It's a great honor to join a list with names like those," Peterson said Wednesday when told that Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson and Billy Sims also won the award. "They are guys that I looked up to growing up. It's a goal that I set before the year started, to win rookie of the year, so it feels great to accomplish that."

Viking Rewards

Adrian Peterson was named the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year, running away with the award even after missing two games because of a knee injury. He set an NFL single-game rushing record (296 yards) against the Chargers in Week 9, and set the league record for most rushing yards through the first eight games (1,036).

Category Total NFL rank
Rushing yds 1,341 2nd*
Rushing TDs 12 T-2nd*
Yards per carry 5.6 2nd
*=Led NFC

Peterson, who set the league mark for rushing in a game with 296 yards in a 35-17 victory over San Diego, also had a 224-yarder in a win against Chicago. The key to Minnesota's improvement to an 8-8 record this season, he led the NFC with 1,341 yards rushing, second only to San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson in the league. His 78 points on 13 touchdowns were second in the conference.

Those numbers, compiled in 14 games, and his overall impact -- the Vikings struggled to pass the ball, yet were in the wild-card race until the final game -- earned Peterson 46 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas was the only other player receiving votes, 3.

"I added to things they already had," Peterson said. "I am a playmaker. That's why I say if there is anything I could do to put me out there, just put me out there.

"I wanted to come in and be a difference and help the team turn around. I came with the attitude to do whatever I had to do to get on the field."

Peterson was not a starter until the sixth game, a week after his big performance against the Bears. While veteran Chester Taylor opened the first five games and was coming off a strong year, it was clear that Peterson could be a difference-maker.

Wait A Second

There appears to be a production pitfall awaiting recent running backs who have won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Only Clinton Portis escaped the curse.

Player Rushing yds as rookie Rushing yds following year
2007 Adrian Peterson, Vikings 1,341 ?
2005 Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers 1,178 798
2002 Clinton Portis, Redskins 1,508 1,591
2001 Anthony Thomas, Bears 1,183 721
2000 Mike Anderson, Broncos 1,500 678

So coach Brad Childress had to turn him loose.

"From an early time, a week after the draft when we had about 50 free agents in here, you knew he was going to be a special guy," Childress said.

The seventh selection in the draft, Peterson brought some durability issues with him after suffering several injuries at Oklahoma. He did miss two games with a knee problem and wasn't particularly effective for much of December when he returned to the lineup.

But at his best, Peterson was as good as any rookie runner the league has seen; halfway through the schedule, he was on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. And even though he slowed because of the injury, Peterson had little competition for the award.

"I knew what I was bringing to the table. I'm pretty sure those guys knew by drafting me," Peterson said. "I came in with the attitude to just contribute any way I could. Get in game shape and be valuable to play."

Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin played at Texas and faced Peterson each season. That Peterson was the NFL's top offensive rookie was no surprise to Griffin.

"I knew what he possessed. He's just a great back, and I respect that of him," Griffin said. "I don't think he needs any praises, because he knows that he has that capability of carrying this team. He's been doing a great job, and everyone knows that."

Now, Peterson is ready for some R&R. Sure, he'd prefer being in the postseason, but with the Vikings eliminated, there's nothing wrong with some time to recharge.

"I got to get away and just relax," he said. "It feels like I've been on a world tour for so long since I started playing in the league. But this is what it's all about. This is what you dream about when you were little. But it's definitely going to feel good to get some time to relax my mind."

Peterson is the fifth Viking to win the award, joining Paul Flatley in 1967, Chuck Foreman in 1973, Sammy White in '76 and Randy Moss in 1998. Only Foreman was a running back; the other three were wide receivers.

Last year's winner was Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press