The Adrian Peterson era in New Orleans was short-lived. Peterson signed a two-year deal with the Saints in April, but four regular-season games and 81 yards later, he was shipped to Arizona for a sixth-round pick.
What exactly happened?
“Well, I think you go back to the uniqueness in our league relative to free agency and the draft,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Free agency comes first and then the draft comes after. The vision was crystal clear when we sign him. It’s a position group that, in our league, 16 weeks is a long time and guys get nicked up. Clearly we had a vision for both he and Mark (Ingram).”
But then the Saints drafted Alvin Kamara in the third round. The 22-year-old rookie has been stellar; he’s rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns, averaged 5.8 yards per carry, and has 31 receptions for 257 yards and a touchdown.
“It becomes a little more challenging when you’re working with three,” Payton said. “It’s a good problem to have, and very early in the process (Peterson) and I would talk every Tuesday. We had a great relationship. Still do. It was one where, man, if there was a suitor, if an opportunity (presented itself) – I told him, ‘I’m not going to keep you from a place where you’re going to have a chance to play more.’ Arizona was nicked up at the position and the timing of it just worked out.”
Unfortunately for Peterson, he had to make two trips to London – one in Week 4 with the Saints and one in Week 7 with the Cardinals.
“Ironically, we had just played in London and stayed at a certain hotel, and two weeks later, Adrian’s back there at the same hotel (with) the same itinerary,” Payton said. “So he was over there twice.”
Peterson has 37 carries for 155 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in two games for Arizona (3-4), which is third in the NFC West.
“He still has it,” Payton said. “I mean that. I said that a bunch. We saw it in training camp. We saw it with his touches. I think it was a win-win for both clubs.
The Saints, meanwhile (5-2), have won five in a row and are atop the NFC South. They host the Bucs (2-5) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Switching gears, Payton was also asked about player protests during the national anthem. His approach to it was vastly different than that of, say, Jerry Jones.
“One of the bad things and one of the good things about what we do, as coaches, you’re really kind of tuned out to a lot of the distractions,” Payton said. “Now, the topic of the anthem certainly has hit our league – and I think times 500 with the President of the United States and the comments that were made. We talked as a team. We got great leadership here. And I grabbed these guys and said, ‘You guys handle this the way you think you need to handle it. I’ll support you.’”
Drew Brees and the Saints elected to kneel before the anthem and stand during it.
“Those guys did a great job,” Payton said. “As a head coach, you’re always mindful of all these social issues, and I think we try as head coaches – or at least as teachers – to constantly be talking about topics that are relative to our guys. Fats Domino died last week. He’s a New Orleans native, and shoot, I’m going to say 60 percent, 70 percent of the guys in the locker room never heard of him. But when you talk to his peers, though, he probably had as much – if not more – of an influence on rock & roll than Elvis Presley did.”