Adrian Peterson: I want to be greatest in history

Most rankings of the best players in NFL history start with Jim Brown, Jerry Rice and Lawrence Taylor.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is confident that he will join that trio in the inner circle of the Hall of Fame once he establishes himself as not just the greatest running back, but the "greatest player" to ever set foot on a gridiron.

Viewed as the most dominant tailback of his generation, Peterson believes he's a already a "no-brainer" Hall of Famer with the third-highest rushing-yards-per-game average of all time.

One potential concern is whether the Hall of Fame Selection Committee will get hung up on Peterson's "abusive discipline" incident that led to a 15-game ban in 2014.

"Oh, no," Peterson said, via The Star Tribune. "I'm going to be blunt and honest with you. I feel like if I didn't play another snap in my life, I got the opportunity to go in the Hall of Fame right now.

"I don't think it will have an impact on how I'm remembered, because at the end of the day, it's still the game of football; people looking at what you do on the field. I think more so the fans of Minnesota (will remember) because it's your hometown team. But not to the extent that I think you think it will be. I don't think it will be too damning."

That's a fair assessment. If the rest of Peterson's career is incident-free, Hall of Fame voters will put more stock in his football accomplishments -- as they are instructed to do.

Peterson considers Deion Sanders and Barry Sanders the two greatest football players, but concedes "my knowledge of NFL history is pretty terrible."

If bypassing Brown and Rice is a pipe dream, Peterson still has a chance to catch Sanders and Sanders, who are typically ranked between 10 and 20 on Top 100 lists.

Even after missing those 15 games last year, Peterson's rushing yards (10,190), rushing touchdowns (86) and yards per attempt still rank in the top 10 of all players through eight seasons.

The key for Peterson will be a lengthy career, so he can fulfill his long-held goal of breaking Emmitt Smith's career rushing record.

Studies have shown that running-back production decreases by 15 percent at age 28, 25 percent at age 29 and 40 percent by the age-30 wall. On the other hand, studies also showed that Peterson couldn't rush for 2,097 yards -- in a 2012 MVP season regarded by NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell as the greatest individual offensive effort in NFL history -- less than a year after tearing two ligaments in his knee.

When Peterson went under the knife for that surgery, Dr. James Andrews was astonished to find that his knee had as much wear and tear as a "newborn baby."

"I just feel like I'm different -- my family and my genetics," Peterson told NFL Media's Jeff Darlington in 2012. "Just how my body is built."

Peterson believes he's just now entering the prime of his career, with the output of his next five or six years matching that of his 2009-2013 span. He recently predicted that he could play "at a high level" until age 36 or 37, which would be unprecedented.

No running back over age 31 has ever rushed for more than 1,400 yards in a season. John Riggins, the most productive "old" running back in history, averaged roughly 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns in his age 34 and 35 seasons.

Armed with cutting-edge medical technology and more effective training methods, today's elite running backs firmly believe they can extend their careers beyond their mid-thirties.

"Football is changing, sports are just changing," ChiefsPro Bowler Jamaal Charles said in May. "You can see basketball, like Kobe Bryant, he is still playing at 36. You see Tim Duncan."

Even among the highest-performance athletes in the world, Peterson's workout regimen is legendary.

"The saying that age is just a number is so true," Peterson told The MMQB last month. "It's all about how you take care of your body and how you view your age. I am a big believer in speaking things into existence and how words carry true power.

"Taking care of your body is the most important thing, training right and eating right, and your body will take care of you. I hear people all the time say to me, Man you're like 22 or 21, and here I am, 30. It's about taking care of your body and putting the right things in your body."

Peterson will enter the 2015 season with fresh legs and a monster-sized chip on his shoulder. He will need both of those factors to hold true over the next half-decade to topple Smith and enter the discussion with Brown and Rice.

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