ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Adrian Peterson says he’s still the NFL’s best running back at age 30 and could have played in the pros at 18 had league rules allowed it.

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In a conference call with Denver media Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings running back said he believes he could have gone straight from Palestine (Texas) High School to the NFL instead of spending three years at the University of Oklahoma.

“Not to sound cocky or anything but I do,” Peterson said.

He noted that he was in the running for the Heisman Trophy his freshman year “and there were guys that went into the league that year like Cedric Benson. I felt like my freshman year I should have won the Doak Walker Award but they gave it to him.”

“Anyway, I feel like I was a better player than him,” Peterson added. “Here I am a true freshman. If Cedric can come in and play then why couldn’t I do it?”

Only because the league rules wouldn’t allow it, at least in Peterson’s eyes.

Peterson also said LSU running back Leonard Fournette must be good because everyone seems to be comparing the two. And he had a hard time naming a better running back in the NFL today.

Peterson said he’s heard all the chatter from people calling Fournette the best back in college since Peterson was carrying the ball for the Sooners from 2004-06.

“I always take it as a compliment when people compare (me to) great backs,” Peterson said. “But I really haven’t seen him play. I’ve just seen highlights.”

Peterson has hit his stride after missing nearly all of last season when fallout from the child abuse case against him kept him out of all but one game. He had a quiet opener but has run for a combined 260 yards and two TDs against Detroit and San Diego the last two weeks.

Peterson held court for 21 minutes, a lifetime for an NFL player on a weekly conference call, answering 25 questions in all.

Only two questions stumped him.

He declined to chime in on the team giving mascot Ragnar a Viking funeral for asking for $20,000 per game.

“I don’t really want to get into all that,” Peterson said with a chuckle. “I like the guy, he is a good guy. I’ll have to get more information before I comment on that.”

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And the last question stumped him so much that he repeated it.

“Who is a better running back than me?” Peterson said.

“Umm. …”

He thought for a few seconds.

“Umm. …”

A few more seconds.

Then, finally, an answer.

“Peyton Manning’s got some nice moves,” he said

Peterson’s Vikings (2-1) visit Manning’s Broncos (3-0) Sunday in Denver.


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