Have we seen the last of Adrian Peterson in the NFL?

Arizona Cardinals

A neck injury seems sure to keep Adrian Peterson out for the rest of this season, so has he already played his last NFL game?

When his career is over, Adrian Peterson will have a minimal wait before having a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Even with running backs being devalued in recent years, he is 12th on the all-time rushing list with 12,276 yards right now.

After being acquired from the New Orleans Saints in October, Peterson topped 100 rushing yards in two of his first three games with the Arizona Cardinals. But since then his production has fallen, and a neck injury has kept him out of the last two games.

Peterson is in line to miss practice this entire week again, and he’s all but sure to miss a third straight game Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is always candid, and he’s not optimistic about Peterson playing again this season.

Peterson has returned from injuries faster than expected before, most notably after a torn ACL late in the 2011 season in time to topped 2,000 rushing yards and win league MVP in 2012. But that was a knee issue, with a cut and dry recovery, which makes if far different from his current neck issue.

Neck injuries have shortened NFL careers, so it’s worth wondering if Peterson will be next.

Peterson lingered on the free agent market for quite a while after the Minnesota Vikings let him go last offseason. Teams that looked like a good fit, like the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders, went another direction and left Peterson to sign with the Saints. It was a bad fit from the start, as expected, and the results Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have produced for New Orleans since the trade speak for themselves.

Peterson missed significant time with a knee injury in 2016, and he missed 15 games due to an off-field issue in 2014. In between was a volume-driven league rushing title in 2015, with 327 carries for 1,485 yards as the Vikings offense was held prisoner to what fit his limited all-around skill set.

The two-year deal Peterson signed with the Saints contains no real commitment for 2018. A $750,000 roster bonus is due on the third day of the league year, and the Cardinals can avoid the entire $3.5 million he’s due next year by cutting ties before that bonus comes due. So Peterson is sure to be available again next March.

A neck injury may force Peterson into retirement. But even without it, a lack of suitors on the open market for a second straight offseason may be enough of an ego hit to force a reality check for a notably oblivious athlete.

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