On December 20, Adrian Peterson, the walking embodiment of an NFL fairytale and one of the most startling surprises in sports this year, will smack us upside the head with another whopper.
Turns out, dude can do comedy.
The Vikings’ soft-spoken, all-world running back will prove as much on the season finale of FX’s “The League.”
“Adrian is a natural actor, so funny and charismatic,” says Jackie Marcus Schaffer, who along with her husband Jeff is the co-creator and executive producer of the sitcom about a nutty fantasy football league.
Adds Jeff Schaffer: “Our characters have been talking about ‘All Day’ for four seasons so it's a dream come true to have him actually on the show.
“And that almost makes up for the fact that he single-handedly knocked me out of the playoffs in two leagues.”
The timing certainly appears to be right, as Peterson is currently gifting fans with a near miraculous and potentially record-breaking campaign less than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL. That was back in December. The rest could become history.
To date, the 27-year-old tailback has accumulated 1,600 yards and 10 TD in 13 games for the 7-6 Vikings, who are within reach of a playoff berth following last season’s 3-13 stinker. If Peterson averages 134 yards over his remaining games, he’ll reach the hallowed 2,000-yard mark. One hundred and six yards after that and he’ll break the NFL's single-season rushing record, a feat that has stood since Eric Dickerson set it 28 years ago.
Hordes of fantasy football owners are now riding Peterson’s wheels. Among them: “The League" character Pete (Mark Duplass), who invites Peterson to a party to celebrate what might be his fourth fantasy title in the second of back-to-back season finale episodes airing Dec 20 at 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on FX. (See Peterson do his thing in exclusive clip above, courtesy of FX. Did he do better than Ryan Fitzpatrick?)
Last night, Blitz spoke exclusively with Peterson about the acting gig, his remarkable season and a pesky abdominal injury that he says won’t prohibit him in the pursuit of his top individual goal.
The man wants Dickerson.
I visited with you on the set of "Entourage" a few years ago. Your acting skills are solid, but you played it straight in that cameo. In this one, you’re pretty damn funny. Is that you, or them?
[Laughs.] Well, I have to give them a lot of credit, but I did kind of switch it up -- I was able to ad-lib, going off their lines. That was pretty cool. And with them, it’s easy to be funny. They do a lot of improvising and they let you flow and use your own language. It was fun, and a pretty cool experience for me.
Would your friends say you’re funny?
Yeah, I would say so. Well, my uncle actually thinks I’m funny. [Laughs.] I get him cracking up. I really don’t say much, but my close friends get to see my humor.
In the episode, Pete invites you to his league’s postseason party. Have you ever fielded such an invite from a fantasy football owner?
Oh yeah, I’ve gotten that several times. Like I do in the show, I try to break it to them as easy as possible. You definitely can’t say, “Yes, I’ll be there.” You tell them, “Yeah, I’ll consider it.” [Laughs.] Hey, you gotta be thoughtful.
You’d never consider such an offer? What if a pretty girl did the asking?
Well, you have to weigh your options. [Laughs.] Like, I could see myself doing that if it was convenient and I didn’t have to fly nowhere. For example, I was doing an autograph signing last night. There was a big line coming through, but this one lady, she had three kids with her, and she was like, “You know, you should come over for dinner!” I said, “Well, that sounds nice, but I don’t know if I can make it.” She goes [in a sad tone], “Yeah.” So I switched it up. I was like, “Well, hold on, how’s your food? You do it with nice flavor and everything?” She goes, “Oh yeah, pretty good flavor.” Then she said she lives in Eden Prairie. When she said that, it clicked -- I lived in Eden Prairie, too. And I like good flavor. [Laughs.] I can see myself doing something like that down the road.
Turns out, you and Pete like the same girl.
That’s right, we kind of have the hots for the same woman. Pretty exciting. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the girl.
C’mon, we know who gets the girl, but I hear ya.
[Laughs.] Yeah, you know.
We’re not allowed to reveal the girl’s identity, so how about this: Who’s your real-life celebrity crush?
Oh, Halle Berry, and I’d definitely say Eva Mendes. They’re just drop-dead beautiful. Halle Berry -- oh, man, with that short hair? I love that look on her. She’s just naturally beautiful. I love women who don’t have to put on a lot of makeup to look beautiful. Just that natural beauty that God blessed you with. Halle Berry is the perfect definition of that -- and Eva. Her, too. What I like about her is her bone structure, and that mole on her face? [Sighs deeply.] Oh, man.
Oh, man, indeed. Moving on, I totally feel Pete: Like him, I’m killing it in one of my leagues because of you, and because I was able to snag you in the third round. Believe it or not, I selected Matt Forte ahead of you. But you can’t really fault me -- not a lot was expected of you this season. Honestly, did you expect this?
Oh yeah, I definitely expected it. It’s something I envisioned. It’s a process, and it began with telling myself, “Hey, I’m going to come back better than I was before.” Mentally, when you’re going through an injury, the first thing you do is get your mind right. If you get down, that’s going to affect how you approach rehab. So, yeah, definitely, I knew I’d come back better than ever. I just had to put in the work.
2,000 yards is now within reach, and Eric Dickerson’s record sits just beyond that.
Would you be cool with 2,000 yards, or are you gunning for Dickerson’s record?
I’m always reaching for the highest mark. With me at 1,600 yards, I’m definitely shooting for Eric Dickerson’s record. It would mean a lot to me, to be honest with you. Now, I’m not going to let it overwhelm me. It’s not the most important thing on my mind. Getting into the postseason is. But personally, it’s something I want to accomplish. That record’s been sitting there for a long time. It’s time for me to go get it.
If a magic genie were to say to you, I’ll give you 2,001 yards or an Emmy for your guest-starring role in “The League,” which would you choose?
Hmmm. [Long pause.] I’d go with The Emmy. [Laughs.]
A dominant storyline for the Vikings this year is Christian Ponder’s struggles. He’s been getting hammered, most recently by Fox’s Jimmy Johnson who said: “Christian Ponder the last couple of months has been horrible, the worst quarterback in the league. He is really struggling. Right now, he is playing scared." What would you say to the former Cowboys coach?
Give him a break. I think at times, before, he was playing kind of hesitant, and it really shows. It’s not like it’s something that’s hidden -- it really shows. But he realized it. And I feel like he’s doing what he needs to do to correct those things. Just watching him in practice, his preparation, his approach to it, you can see that he has the mindset that he wants to be more focused and to be able to overcome adversity when it happens in the game, moving forward. I think he’ll be able to handle it. He’s a smart guy. And he showed me something in the past two weeks -- he’s playing with a different passion than I’ve seen in him. With that, anything can happen.
And if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen with a healthy Adrian Peterson. You popped up on the injury report with an abdominal issue. Is that something you, or your fantasy owners, should be concerned about?
Naw, naw, naw. That’s nothing I’m concerned about right now. It’s something I’m monitoring, and I’m making sure I’m getting my rest and getting ready to come back. It’s all about Sunday. You have to be smart, get your body healthy and, most importantly, be ready to play on Sunday. I’ll be ready to roll.