EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Among Adrian Peterson's comments in the course of a 90-minute interview with USA Today on Thursday, the running back again floated the idea that his career might lead him somewhere other than Minnesota. It's a possibility we've heard Peterson raise before -- whether it's been him musing (or talking to Jerry Jones) about playing in Dallas, or admitting he would think about going elsewhere if the Vikings weren't in Super Bowl contention.
But Peterson's comments carried a little more weight this time, because of what's gone on this season. The Vikings' decision to activate Peterson, then put him on the commissioner's exempt list in the wake of sponsor backlash, certainly strained the relationship between the team and the running back. Peterson's comments that "there's people I know internally that has not been supporting me" fall in line with what we've heard through the running back's time on the exempt list; the Vikings are certainly aware of what Peterson could do for their on-field interests, but they're also aware of the effects his return could have on their business and PR interests. Gauging those effects could take some time, and especially when Peterson will turn 30 in March and not be eligible for reinstatement until April, the Vikings could decide the $13 million they'd pay him next season would be better used elsewhere.
And then there's this: Peterson is someone who places a high value on loyalty. If he feels he's been kept at length by some in the organization, he's not likely to forget it, just as he's not likely to forget the coaches and teammates who have supported him through his time away from the Vikings. Once again, navigating those relationships will take time, and Peterson mentioned wanting to see if Minnesota would still be a place that would support him, but the thinking here has been that all parties might decide it's best to move on.
If that happens next spring, where might Peterson turn up?
Several destinations come to mind, and the Cowboys are first on the list. Peterson and Jones have talked with each other about their desire to work together, and if the Cowboys decided to pay Dez Bryant instead of DeMarco Murray this offseason, Peterson could be an alternative, especially if he signed a deal more in line with the current market for running backs than the one he has now. It's difficult to see Peterson going anywhere where he wouldn't be the featured running back, but he's made no secret about his desire to play in Texas at some point, and now might be his chance.
Another team to keep in mind is Seattle; the Seahawks could part ways with Marshawn Lynch after the season. They've had a history of bringing in former Vikings players, Peterson's old offensive coordinator (Darrell Bevell) is there, and he'd walk into both an offense that prioritizes the running game and a team with a strong culture. Teams that have a chance to win would presumably appeal to Peterson, and the Seahawks would offer that, as well.
He's got a home in Houston, and teams with impending change at the running back position, like San Francisco and Atlanta, might make sense. The first step for Peterson and the Vikings would be to figure out if they have a future together. Like so many things about this issue, that might not be as easy at it seems.
"I'm sure at some point this offseason -- or in the next several weeks -- he'll come back up here. I'm not sure what he has planned," said fullback Jerome Felton, who has been one of Peterson's strongest supporters throughout his time away from the team. "I know that's going to be a big factor. If I was uncomfortable, I wouldn't want to be somewhere.
"When it comes to Adrian, I didn't feel a negative reaction when we went to games on Sunday -- there were more [No.] 28 jerseys in the stands than any other jersey. I think the fans support him. I think people probably have strong feelings on both sides of the issue. But if he's going to be remorseful, I don't see any reason they wouldn't support him."