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Is Adrian Peterson Still Dominating the NFL at Age 38?

In short – not quite to the level of his historic peak, but Adrian Peterson remains a surprisingly effective and durable running back defying the odds deep into his 30s. While no longer an undisputed top tier "dominant" force, Peterson continues contributing solid production thanks to his athletic gifts and relentless work ethic.

Adrian Peterson, at the ripe age of 38, stands as an unprecedented figure in the NFL record books. As one of the most remarkable running backs in football history, Peterson‘s continued high-level performances well past 30 years old challenge everything we know about the position.

In 2023, not only does Peterson still shine as a useful NFL running back, but his participation in fantasy football and his impressive run on ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ Season 32 showcases how he remains an athletic marvel late in his career. Let‘s explore Peterson‘s unprecedented longevity closer:

Summary of Adrian Peterson‘s Historic Late Career

  • Date of birth: March 21, 1985 – Currently 38 years old
  • NFL Debut: 2007 at age 22 with the Minnesota Vikings
  • All-Time Rushing Yards: Ranked 4th in NFL history with 14,918 yards
  • 2021 at Age 36: Rushed for 604 yards and 2 TDs in 15 games
  • 2023 at Age 38: Still aims to play in the NFL and compete at an elite level

Simply put, Adrian Peterson‘s name is synonymous with excellence and longevity in the NFL record books. Even now at age 38 in 2023, his continued production and popularity make him a rare fixture still contributing way past a typical running back‘s prime.

Peterson‘s achievements and enduring skill well into his late 30s solidify his status as one of the most iconic rushing threats to ever play. His career stands as a testament to unwavering determination and commitment to defy the effects of age.

Dominance in Context

To fully appreciate Peterson‘s capabilities in 2023, let‘s establish reasonable expectations for an NFL running back at 38 years old.

The average NFL running back peaks around age 27, according to research by ProFootballReference. Production steeply declines after about 30, and very few backs log significant carries past 35.

Why? The position demands a rare blend of burst, power, agility, and durability – traits that inevitably erode with age and miles.

By 35, most backs are retired or relegated to bench roles. Adrian Peterson hitting the field at 38 stands out as an extraordinary outlier.

In 2022, only 6 out of 68 qualified running backs (8.8%) were over 30 years old, according to Sporting News. The list includes:

  • Mark Ingram, 32 – Saints backup with 134 yards
  • Sony Michel, 27 – Chargers backup with 172 yards
  • Brandon Bolden, 32 – Raiders backup with 162 yards
  • Darrell Williams, 26 – Cardinals backup with 202 yards
  • Cordarrelle Patterson, 31 – Falcons starter with 618 yards
  • Adrian Peterson, 37 – Titans backup with 604 yards

Peterson finished with the 6th most rushing yards among this small over-30 group in 2022. He nearly matched 31 year old Cordarrelle Patterson‘s production as a full time starter.

This further confirms Peterson‘s outlier status maintaining starter-level production way past his physical prime. While not matching his ALL-TIME peak, he remains impressively effective compared to nearly all historic runners at the same age.

Peterson‘s Late Career Productivity

Let‘s breakdown how Peterson has continued to defy expectations and produce well into his mid and late 30s:

Age 34 Season (2019)

After taking 2018 off, Peterson signed with the Redskins for a comeback at age 34. He shocked the NFL by rushing for 898 yards and 5 TDs in 10 games before a season ending injury.

His productivity ranked 9th among qualified runners that season. Peterson showed vintage flashes of dominance – including a 120 yard game against the Eagles featuring a 41 yard run.

Age 35 Season (2020)

Peterson started 14 games for the Lions in 2020 after the Redskins released him. He posted a respectable 604 yards and 7 TDs despite playing for one of the league‘s worst offenses.

He averaged 4.3 YPC on 156 attempts – showing he could still grind out yards at an average level. While not outstanding, Peterson contributed reliable production on an otherwise lackluster Detroit team.

Age 36 Season (2021)

In 2021, Peterson signed mid-season with the Titans after beginning the year as a backup with the Seahawks. He finished with a combined 604 rushing yards and 2 TDs across 15 games.

Impressively, he managed to break the 100 yard mark twice despite splitting backfields in Tennessee and Seattle.

While used sparingly, Peterson remained dangerous in short spurts – fully capable of breaking off chunks of yards if defenses underestimated him.

Career Rushing Yards at 30+

Very few running backs in NFL history have maintained any semblance of production at Peterson‘s current age. To illustrate, here are the top 10 players in career rushing yards after turning 30 since 2000, via ProFootballReference:

PlayerCareer Rushing Yards After Turning 30
Frank Gore7428
Adrian Peterson4082
LaDainian Tomlinson2323
Fred Taylor2188
Thomas Jones1938
Edgerrin James1922
Jamal Lewis1641
Correll Buckhalter1261
Willis McGahee1128
Marshawn Lynch1022

Peterson ranks 2nd behind only ageless wonder Frank Gore in yards past 30 since 2000. And Peterson incredibly amassed over 4000 yards after turning 30 despite missing nearly 3 full seasons to suspension and injuries during that stretch.

No other back comes close to Peterson and Gore‘s longevity late in their careers. Unlike his peers, Peterson has shown no sudden cliff even into his late 30s. He continues extending the boundaries of elite running back longevity.

Fantasy Football Factor

In the world of fantasy football, Peterson‘s age makes him a uniquely coveted asset. Despite being well past the normal NFL expiration date, Peterson‘s big play ability gives him sky high upside for fantasy managers.

In 2021, at the ripe age of 36, Peterson proved he still carries fantasy viability. He finished as the RB51 in total points, but cracked the weekly top 36 in 4 of his 15 games played.

Position scarcity combined with Peterson‘s name value and touchdown chances alone make him a viable flex play as a bye week or injury fill in. Very few running backs in history have maintained any fantasy relevance close to 40 years old. Peterson‘s sustained track record is simply unmatched.

Who were the top 10 oldest running backs to tally over 100 fantasy points in a season since 2000?

PlayerSeasonAgeTotal Fantasy Points
Adrian Peterson202136127
Frank Gore201835183
Fred Jackson201332193
Thomas Jones200931212
Ricky Williams200932179
Fred Taylor200832113
Curtis Martin200431303
Emmitt Smith200132177
Marcus Allen199333104
Ottis Anderson199235128

Peterson stands out as the oldest player to surpass 100 fantasy points in over 20 seasons. And he nearly cracked the top 5 in total production despite being 4+ years older than any peer on the list.

This remarkable fantasy durability illustrates why Peterson continues to tempt open-minded fantasy owners in search of upside. Similar to Tom Brady at quarterback, Peterson‘s uncanny longevity provides value his same aged peers simply cannot offer.

‘Dancing with the Stars‘ Breakout

Further showcasing his athletic versatility, Peterson‘s impressive run on Season 32 of ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ has displayed grace and charisma outside his football helmet.

Despite being one of the oldest competitors ever at age 38, Peterson has wowed the judges with agile footwork and captivating dance routines. He ranks among the top celebrity dancers thanks to relentless work in the studio.

Peterson‘s football prowess has translated into forceful yet artistic dances week after week. His Quickstep and Salsa bounced with springy legs and precise movement – reminding audiences of the pure athleticism that made him an NFL legend.

Seeing the hulking NFL rushing king trade his cleats for dancing shoes has been a revelation. Peterson pairs his power with surprising flexibility, showmanship, and charm outside his comfort zone.

Both football fans and casual viewers have been stunned as Peterson masterfully executes complex choreography like the Argentine Tango. His performances consistently earn rave reviews from the judges, keeping him a darkhorse to take home the Mirrorball Trophy.

Behind the Scenes Grind

Adrian Peterson‘s late career renaissance does not happen by accident. His sustained brilliance past 35 years old comes via an unrelenting work ethic unmatched by his younger peers.

At 38 and having earned over $100 million in his career, Peterson outworks athletes 20 years his junior. His rigorous offseason training regime prepares his body to overcome age and injuries.

"When I‘m training, I‘m thinking that there are 24 year olds out there training to take my spot. I have to work harder." – Adrian Peterson

Peterson‘s grueling weight room strength work and explosive field drills aim to maintain the athletic traits that once made him the best running back in the league.

He couples on-field work with meticulous recovery like massages, cryotherapy, and float tanks to optimize rest. Peterson also adheres to a strict vegan diet to reduce inflammation and stay lean.

During the season, he is the first to arrive and last to leave the practice facility – setting the tone for younger players. His work ethic and commitment at his age inspires teammates to push their limits.

Peterson‘s unwavering routine allows him to perform at a high level way past his physical prime. While his longevity impresses, it does not come easily without supreme dedication to his craft.

What‘s Next in 2023?

Even after cementing a Hall of Fame career, Peterson remains intent on playing for at least one more NFL season. His passion for the game still burns bright at 38 years old.

While currently unsigned, Peterson continues rigorously training in anticipation for his 17th NFL season. His recent video of running steep, Rocky-esque bleacher sprints proves he is ready for NFL camps.

Given his track record of production and elite maintenance regimen, don‘t be surprised if Peterson joins a roster this Fall. Several running back needy contenders like the Rams, Texans, and Eagles could benefit from Peterson‘s tools as a grinder, pass protector and veteran leader.

The main limitations to Peterson finding a roster spot are his age and declining explosiveness. Most teams hesitate giving substantial carries to a player approaching 40 years old. Yet in a strict niche role, Peterson can still provide value.

Expect Peterson to land on a short term deal as a luxury depth piece and mentor. He provides reliable production when called upon, while spearheading the culture with his relentless mindset.

While his role will likely remain limited, Peterson‘s potential 2023 return would hold meaning. It demonstrates supreme commitment to the game and motivation to pass aging limitations. Don‘t bet against Adrian Peterson – he continues raising the bar into his late 30s.

Final Thoughts

To summarize – while no longer the undisputed dominant force of seasons past, Adrian Peterson remains a surprisingly effective and durable rarity entering his age 39 NFL season.

He may not recapture his 2000 yard peak or claim rushing titles, but Peterson continues contributing solid production thanks to refined skills and legendary work ethic. Just logging snaps so deep into his 30s stands remarkable.

Both on and off the field, Peterson expands his legacy with continued excellence against Father Time. He appeals to nostalgic fans who remember his early highlights, while inspiring new generations witnessing his late career.

Peterson‘s longevity as an elite athlete serves as the gold standard of possibility past one‘s physical prime. He demonstrates that commitment, smart training, and unwavering will allow remarkable talents to overcome even the harshest limitations.

At 38 years old, Adrian Peterson shows no signs of slowing down. He remains must-see entertainment defying expectations – both between the lines and under the bright lights.

Peterson forever exemplifies the peak athletic specimen conquering typical timelines. No matter your age or endeavor, drawing inspiration from AD‘s journey can propel chasing your goals to new heights.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.