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Zulgad: Vikings’ decision to jettison Adrian Peterson ends a complicated relationship

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings’ decision to sever ties with Adrian Peterson on Tuesday morning – and make no mistake ties have been severed – did not come as a surprise and yet, as if with the end of any long-term relationship, it was still jarring to see.

Peterson’s exit from Minnesota won’t become official until March 9, when the league’s new year begins and he becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NFL career.

There are many things that can and will be said about Peterson’s 10 years with the Vikings, but the most appropriate might be this: It was complicated.

That was true on the day the Vikings selected Peterson with the seventh-overall pick in the 2007 draft – Minnesota did not need a running back and almost certainly thought Peterson would be gone by the time their selection arrived – and it was true until Tuesday, when Peterson was informed the Vikings would not pick up the $18 million option on his contract for 2017.

Peterson will depart Minnesota as the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher with 11,747 yards. That puts him 16th in NFL history. He has rushed for 97 touchdowns, has 1,945 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.

Peterson went to seven Pro Bowls, was a seven-time All-Pro selection and is one of only 15 running backs to ever win NFL MVP. His 296-yard rushing game on Nov. 4, 2007 against San Diego at the Metrodome established a single-game rushing record that still stands.

His return from what appeared to be a devastating knee injury near the end of the 2011 season set up an incredible comeback as he became only the seventh player in league history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in his MVP season of 2012.

There is no doubting Peterson’s greatness, the fact that he will one day have his No. 28 retired by the Vikings and be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But for all of his accomplishments in purple, Peterson also will be remembered for crucial fumbles, including key turnovers in the 2009 NFC title game against New Orleans and in the Vikings’ first-round playoff loss to Seattle in 2015. He will be remembered for having to sit out almost all of the 2014 season as he faced child abuse charges. He will be remembered as a guy who was a marvelous runner but was lacking when it came to catching the ball and was so deficient in pass protection that he could not be consistently used on third down.

Peterson will go down as one of the most memorable players in Vikings’ history and yet the franchise won only one playoff game in his 10 years. That came during the magical 2009 season as the Vikings went 12-4 and made it to the NFC championship game thanks to an MVP-type season from a near-the-end Brett Favre.

Among the lasting images from the Vikings’ overtime loss at the Superdome was that of Peterson standing in the tunnel to the playing field, still in full uniform, and staring at the field long after the game was finished. Peterson was only 24 years old at the time and yet his body language that day looked to be that of a guy who realized he might have just lost out on his best opportunity to make it to a Super Bowl.

Peterson will leave Minnesota having played with 13 starting quarterbacks, meaning no matter how great he might have been in his prime, the Vikings never did find consistency at the most important position on the field during his tenure. Favre’s phenomenal 2009 was the only season in which Peterson got to play with an elite-level QB.

Not surprisingly, both the Vikings and Peterson appeared to be doing their best to play nice on Tuesday. After the 2014 season, Peterson was angry at the Vikings and wanted out because he did not feel as if the team had his back.

This was ridiculous considering it was Peterson who faced child abuse charges, but general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer did their best to repair the relationship and a disgruntled Peterson came back with a restructured contract.

The Vikings almost certainly aren’t going to do the same this time. Peterson will turn 32 on March 21, has sat out most of two of the past three seasons and isn’t a good fit for the West Coast system the Vikings will run under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Nonetheless, the Vikings issued a statement from Spielman on Tuesday that read: “Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization. We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward.”

Read between the lines and it’s clear the Vikings are doing their best to end their marriage to Peterson in the most peaceful way possible. But, as with all long-term marriages that come to an end, it’s complicated. Just as everything with Peterson ended up being during his time in Minnesota.

The post Zulgad: Vikings’ decision to jettison Adrian Peterson ends a complicated relationship appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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