After running for 157 yards against the Bears on Sunday, Adrian Peterson is 506 yards away from breaking the single-season rushing record, something he told SI's Peter King that he is very serious about doing. It's a stretch, but not quite an impossible stretch: Peterson is averaging 123 rushing yards per game so far, and would need to average 169 over the Vikings' final three games to break Eric Dickerson's record.
That record has stood for 28 years now. Only four players have come within 99 yards of it—the closest, Jamal Lewis in 2003, came into his final game needing 154 yards and only got 114. At this level of accomplishment, a 114-yard game counts as a disappointment.
And here is Peterson, with 1,600 yards, already good for the 50th best season of all time. Peterson is also, as you may recall, less than one year removed from tearing both his ACL and MCL while suffering this vicious hit. It was a devastating injury, one that most athletes need at least a full year to recover from (if they recover at all). And yet, somehow, Peterson is leading the league in rushing and doing stuff like this:
Adrian Peterson has no business running like he is right now. That's what's so heartening about this particular bid for the record. More than any other sport, football is constantly trying to destroy its players. It's damn near impossible for any player to make it through an entire season without having to deal with some kind of injury, and every player is on the precipice of having their season or career ended in an instant.
This can make being a football fan a total bummer, because you're always half-expecting the worst things to happen to the players you like the most. It's hard to imagine that anyone was surprised when Robert Griffin III left Sunday's game after nearly getting his leg snapped like a twig. The excitement of rooting for someone like RGIII, Michael Vick, and Adrian Peterson is always tinged with dread—the heroics look unbelievable because they are unbelievable, and sooner or later the game will prove it. Can't keep taking those risks like that. Them's the breaks.
But what Peterson is doing flies in the face of that somber resignation. The careers of Terrell Davis, Willis McGahee, Deuce McAllister, and Ki-Jana Carter warned against expecting any kind of bounce-back season. Peterson should have become just another name on the long list of players who've had their careers cut short by the inherently violent nature of the game. And yet, there he is, still running just as hard and forcefully as he ever has, succeeding where he shouldn't be. For once, it would be nice to see a player get the better of the game.