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Don't Anoint Rookie Yet

Kevin Sims
Sports Editor

   Unless you do not follow pro football or were in a coma, you heard about the record-breaking performance Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings’ rookie sensation.

   Adrian Peterson set the single game rushing record in a 35-17 win against the San Diego Chargers Sunday. Peterson rushed for 296 yards and three touchdowns, amassing an unbelievable 9.9 average yard per carry.

   Putting up average numbers in the first half, Peterson broke loose with a 64-yard run on his second carry after the break. He made two more long runs during the game, breaking one for 46 and one for 35.

   The game will go down as one of the greatest performances in NFL history, and coming from a rookie makes it all the more impressive.

   This season Peterson leads the NFL with 1,036 rushing yards, 332 yards more than second place Joseph Addai, and eight rushing touchdowns, one touchdown ahead of two other players. Stats like these beg the question, “How good is this guy?”

   As a frequent surfer of sports forums, blogs and so-called “expert” sites, I’m tired of hearing Peterson’s name brought up as the best running back in the league. I do not deny the rookie’s talent. He has more in his pinky toe than I had in my prime. I just cannot anoint a rookie as being the best of anything other than the best rookie.

   I hate the argument that a player must play X number of years before he can be considered the best, but one season does not make a career. In my 25 years, I’ve seen more than two dozen “Next Great Things,” and less than a handful panned out.

   Just two seasons ago, the so called “experts” named Carnell “Cadillac” Williams the best back in the league when he rushed for over 100 yards in each of his first three games. He hushed the loud mouths, being held to under 30 yards his next four starts and sat out two of the next six games due to injuries. He also fumbled twice in those four games he played.

   Although he finished his rookie season with a respectable 1,178 yards and six touchdowns, his lackluster sophomore campaign and suffering what could be a career-ending knee injury this season solidified the fact that the “experts” jumped the gun on Williams.

   The year before Williams’ rookie season, “experts” said fellow Buccaneer Michael Clayton was the next great receiver after he caught 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. The Bucs listed Clayton as its No. 3 wide out in 2007 and tried to shop him to another team before the season started, but no team wanted him.

   The list of should-have-been greats could go on for miles. Peterson’s numbers are great, but when broken down he could join their ranks.

   Peterson put up over half his stats in two games this season. In the San Diego and Chicago games he rushed for 520 yards and six touchdowns combined. That means in the other six games he ran average at best.

   Also a stat that is as important to running backs as scoring touchdowns and putting up yards is not fumbling the football. Peterson is tied for the lead in fumbles by a running back with three.

   Having the single game rushing record as a rookie is impressive, but to quote Boll Weevils' coach Gwaine Mathews, “yards are the most overrated stat in football.”

  In 1965 Gale Sayers broke the single-game touchdown record as a rookie with six. To me, touchdowns are way more important than yards.

   And even if Peterson breaks the season record in yardage this year, LaDainian Tomlinson's 31 touchdowns last season trumps any yard record.

  Although Peterson might be the biggest talent to come out of the draft in quite sometime, until he puts up a string of good years, I for one will never call him the best.


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ŠThe Voice 2007
09/17/2007 09:07:11 PM —