NEW ORLEANS Running back Adrian Peterson doesn’t have to be a super hero for the New Orleans Saints this season. He just needs to be himself.
And most importantly, he needs to be “available.”
Unlike several recent oft-injured players who no longer are with the Black and Gold, most notably, safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Keenan Lewis and the latest to fall out of grace and off the roster, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
The Saints placed Ellerbe on injured reserve with a foot injury and plan to release him when healthy in mid-August with a financial settlement.
When healthy, Ellerbe seemed to make a difference, though it should be noted that he played on a relatively inept defense. But he couldn’t stay on the field, missing 17 games in two seasons in New Orleans as a result of hip, toe and quad injuries.
Lest we forget, the Saints acquired Ellerbe and a third-round pick from the Miami Dolphins in March 2015 for wide receiver Kenny Stills. Ellerbe had missed 15 games in 2014 as a member of the Dolphins because of a major hip injury.
By the way, with the pick acquired from Miami, the Saints selected Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams who’s having injury issues of his own. He missed all of his rookie season in ’15 with a torn hamstring and 14 games last season after suffering a concussion in Week 2.
Which brings me back to the word “available.’’
Saints coach Sean Payton used the word several days ago to explain the underlying reason for Ellerbe’s release. Payton and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen could never count on Ellerbe to be “available’’ on game days.
With regards to Peterson, who’s trying to bounce back at age 32 from a lost season in Minnesota because of a torn meniscus, he can be most helpful in the Saints multiple offense by being healthy and ready to play each and every week.
Yes, Peterson is a future Hall of Famer.
And yes, he has eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in seven of his 10 NFL seasons (all with Minnesota), though only once in the past three years (1,485 yards, 2015).
But, the Saints don’t need Peterson to rush for 1,000 yards. That is not what Payton’s offense is all about or who the Saints are with quarterback Drew Brees under center. They have veteran starter Mark Ingram and promising rookie running back Alvin Kamara to help share the workload.
The Saints just need Adrian Peterson — who answer to the nickname “All Day’’ —to be available all season long.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.