Adrian Peterson has appeared in 123 regular-season games since entering the league in 2007.
Only one of which has transpired against the team the 32-year-old running back visited Monday.
It was Oct. 31, 2010. It was Randy Moss’ momentary return to a familiar place. But for the Minnesota Vikings, who saw eventual Hall of Fame inductee Brett Favre carted off in the fourth quarter after being driven to the turf by Myron Pryor, it was also a 28-18 loss.
If that seems like a distant memory now, it’s because it is.
The New England Patriots’ Mike Wright registered a sack in that Halloween matchup at Gillette Stadium, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Tate combined to register four touchdowns.
But Peterson got into the end zone as well.
No. 28 handled 25 carries for 92 yards and a score against a white-helmeted Patriots defense that has only Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Rob Ninkovich remaining within it now. And out of the backfield, he also turned five receptions into 50 yards, with a long of 25.
“Peterson is a heck of a back – as good of a back as we'll see all year,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in his postgame press conference.
Belichick and the Patriots haven’t seen him since.
Peterson battled back from a torn ACL and MCL to notch a 2,097-yard season in 2012, and put together a 1,266-yard campaign in 2013 despite missing two games. But he would be sidelined for all but one game in 2014.
Minnesota’s Sept. 14 meeting with New England marked the first absence.
Two days before the Patriots were set to revisit Peterson, the former first-round pick out of Oklahoma was indicted by a grand jury on charges that he injured his 4-year-old son with a switch. Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings and later placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, where he’d spend the duration of the 2014 season after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor reckless assault charge.
Since his reinstatement in early 2015, Peterson has posted a 1,485-yard season followed by a 72-yard one that ended with a torn meniscus and a 1.9 average. Where that leaves him now remains unclear.
The veteran free agent stands seven Pro Bowls, four first-team All-Pros, three rushing titles and one NFL MVP into his career. He stands with 2,418 carries, 241 catches, 13,086 yards and 102 total touchdowns. He stands without a team.
But the Patriots opted to take a closer look at a player who’s only stopped by once before. Perhaps that is due diligence or tire-kicking. Perhaps it is more.
“He’s a very strong runner, good vision and real good speed,” Belichick said on a conference call five days before the Patriots were scheduled to face Peterson back in 2014. “When he hits the seam, you're looking at a lot of yardage. He's a hard guy to tackle. He has good patience as a runner and good burst, good strength and can run away from people. He's a tough guy, tough guy to handle.”
Peterson isn’t the same player he was then. But parts of Belichick’s sentiment still ring true.
Would the Patriots do so much as host a free agent of Peterson’s profile if there wasn’t legitimate interest behind it? It seems unlikely. Whether that interest is worth signing off on – or whether Robert and Jonathan Kraft would agree to – is another question.
And it’s one that the organization has, at the very least, entertained to get to this point.
The Patriots’ depth chart at running back currently includes Dion Lewis, James White, D.J. Foster and March signing Rex Burkhead. Meanwhile, after amassing 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground in 2016, LeGarrette Blount finds himself in the free-agent waters alongside core special-teamer Brandon Bolden.
For now, Peterson sits there, too. He left the Patriots’ facility Monday afternoon without a deal, as ESPN’s Field Yates first reported.