Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints should set running back Adrian Peterson free to do his thing

New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson gives a thumbs-up to photographers as he walks off the field after taking part in an NFL training session at the London Irish rugby team training ground in the Sunbury-on-Thames suburb of south west London, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.
New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson gives a thumbs-up to photographers as he walks off the field after taking part in an NFL training session at the London Irish rugby team training ground in the Sunbury-on-Thames suburb of south west London, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. AP

One can’t say with total confidence if Adrian Peterson’s days are numbered in a crowded backfield with the resurgent New Orleans Saints.

The same can’t be said about his game snaps, based on the way the first quarter of the season has played out with teammates Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin “Special K” Kamara getting the bulk of the work.

Of the three, Peterson has been least utilized, playing just 44 of 259 offensive snaps in four games, including a career-low six in Sunday’s 20-0 victory against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

Of those 44 snaps, Peterson has 29 touches (27 carries, two catches), resulting in a paltry 85 yards from scrimmage and no touchdowns. This is a player who has accounted for 13,777 yards and 102 TDs during a distinguished 11-year career. His lone highlight came in Game 1 when he started against his old team, the Minnesota Vikings, on a national stage at U.S. Bank Stadium.

And it has been downhill ever since.

In fact, the player known as “All Day’’ has made more noise off the field, providing a noteworthy sound bite after his nine-snap, 18-yard performance against the Vikings. At one point, ESPN cameras captured a steely-eyed Peterson staring a hole through Saints coach Sean Payton after the two exchanged words on the sideline.

“I didn’t sign up for nine snaps,’’ Peterson proclaimed later.

The 32-year-old, well-chiseled, sure-fire Hall of Famer still sees himself as a featured NFL back and a 1,000-yard rusher on the right team.

The Saints are not that team, not with Payton calling plays, not in the Saints timeshare backfield.

Ingram and Kamara fit more snugly in Payton’s master plan, with the versatile Kamara expected to assume an even larger role going forward. Against the Dolphins, “Special K’’ produced 96 yards on 15 touches, including catching all 10 targets for 71 yards and one touchdown.

In Payton’s two-back game plan, Peterson is the odd man out, an early down back to be used on the ground against the opponent’s base defense, to give a blow to a teammate or to milk the clock.

His biggest value to the Saints is depth, a quality replacement in the event something happens to Ingram and/or Kamara. Payton and GM Mickey Loomis must have defined Peterson’s role before he signed a two-year, $7 million contract in late April that includes a $2.5 million signing bonus.

Thus, Peterson had to know what he was getting into in New Orleans, and he probably knows what he has to do now.

Ask to be traded. It’s a win-win situation. The Saints would get some form of compensation and Peterson hopefully would go to a team that can use him.

With the NFL trading deadline looming (Oct. 31, 3 p.m.), the Saints and Peterson might be better off parting ways because this relationship seems to be running on empty.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

Saints timeshare plan

Player

Snaps

Touches

Yards

TDs

Mark Ingram

137

57

295

0

Alvin Kamara

91

35

230

2

Adrian Peterson

44

29

85

0

*Based on 259 offensive snaps through four games

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