Adrian Peterson and Saquon Barkley will have a chance to reconnect a bit on Sunday when their teams play each other. There is more than a decade of difference in their ages. One is in the very early stages of his career and the other is… well, let’s not buy a gold watch for Peterson just yet.
But the two running backs have forged a bit of a connection in their brief time together as NFL players.
“I’ve been a big fan of his, got to talk to him multiple times,” Barkley said this past week. “He always gives me great words of encouragement, but I’m just a big fan. I love watching his game and it’s amazing to see what he’s able to do at this age.”
Peterson’s career — his off-the-field issues and injuries aside — seems like the kind that Barkley aspires to: long-term physical dominance, record-setting longevity, and the respect of teammates and opponents alike.
But as the Giants face Washington on Sunday and the two get to enjoy a bit of a reunion, there undoubtedly is a hole in Peterson’s resume that Barkley is trying to avoid.
For all his greatness, all his awards, all his impressive attributes, Peterson has never played in a Super Bowl. In fact, he’s made the playoffs in only four of his 14 seasons and has been part of just one postseason victory.
“I’ve never personally sat down with him and talked to him and dived into that discussion,” Barkley said, “but I would assume he is probably upset he’s never won a Super Bowl.”
Barkley assumes that because he hasn’t even finished two full seasons yet and feels the same way about his own legacy. Even now, it gnaws at him that the Giants have not been able to succeed during his short tenure with the team.
“The production doesn’t matter,” he said of his numbers, which dropped off in 2019 because of missed time and a period of recovery from a high ankle sprain that healed but is only now starting to become a mental non-factor for him. “I had one of the best seasons ever last year for a rookie running back. That didn’t matter last year at all. We went 5-11. All of those yards, when they come to five wins, don’t mean nothing. I think if you ask any talented or any player who is productive, the only thing that matters to them is the wins. Because at the end of the day, it’s that trophy that everyone wants. Not the rookie of the year trophy, MVP trophy or any of those trophies.”
There is no hardware at stake for Sunday’s game at FedEx Field. Both teams are 3-11, and many are framing it as a contest in which the loser actually will be the winner because of the improved draft positioning. The spoils of victory in this game very well may be having to try to block Chase Young twice a year for the next decade.
As for the running backs, their mutual respect is above their current position in the standings.
“He’s a monster,” Barkley said of Peterson. “AP, he’s one of the best running backs to ever do it.”
Even if Peterson judges himself differently because of the absence of a championship.
Even if Barkley would, were he in that spot late in his own career.