Mark your calendars for Week 16 of the 2017 season. That's when Adrian Peterson says he'll break Emmitt Smith's all-time NFL rushing mark of 18,355 yards.
It's all about setting goals. Coming off an ACL tear that had many saying he'd never be the same again, Peterson decided to top Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing mark. He fell nine yards short, "settling" for 199 yards in Week 17 and singlehandedly dragging Minnesota into the playoffs. After that disappointment, Peterson has made known his goal for 2013: the first ever 2,500-yard season.
But this one's more long term. In a long conversation with the Star Tribune, Peterson was pressed on a previous claim that the NFL rushing mark will eventually be his.
Forget about Eric Dickerson’s record for a minute. Last December, we talked about Emmitt Smith’s record and I told you you were on pace to get there in Week 4 of 2019. You said sooner and promised to come back with a timetable. Emmitt had 18,355 yards. You’re now 9,506 away. I need a week and a year. When do you get there?
Man. Oh boy. I have to do some calculations. I’ve been in the league seven years. I’m already right around [9,000]. Calculate it out … Let’s think. Maybe get a couple 2,000 yard seasons … I’ve got … Hmmm … 2017.
What week in 2017?
Man. I better go late. I’m already getting too far in front of myself. I’ll say Week 16. There it is. Week 16 in 2017. Whoo. That’s pushing it, huh? But hey, pushing it is the only way to do it. You know it.
Peterson is 28 years old, and after six seasons in the league he's already 33rd on the all-time list and nearly halfway to Smith. But to reach the mark by Week 16 of 2017, he'd need to average 1,925 yards per season. Peterson predicts "a couple" 2,000-yard seasons, but no one's ever done it more than once. (Chris Johnson, who hasn't done it since 2009, maintains he's still better than Peterson because "I did it first.")
The binges aren't at issue—if you showed me a Back to the Future sports almanac saying Peterson gains 3,000 yards in 2013, I'd believe it. Durability is the problem. Running backs rarely have careers longer than a decade, even the all-time greats. To run down Emmitt Smith in 2017, his 11th season, Peterson would have to average 120 yards per game, and not miss time with injury. He seems indestructible, but we've learned those ligaments can only give so much.
So enjoy Adrian Peterson now, while he's healthy and in his prime and maybe the most impressive runner the game's ever seen. Football and the human body aren't designed to let this go on for too long.