Monday night was a nightmare for the New Orleans Saints. Not only did the team drop its season opener 29-19 to the Minnesota Vikings, but it looked lost on both sides of the ball for long stretches during the game -- and lost starting tackle Zach Strief in the first quarter to a knee injury (status still undetermined for next week).
Then there was the sideline bickering. Before the half, ESPN cameras caught star running back Adrian Peterson appearing to feud with head coach Sean Payton.
Adrian Peterson having a conversation with new head coach Sean Payton... pic.twitter.com/devQ67xJ1l- Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) September 12, 2017
At the time, Peterson had just four carries for 14 yards, a paltry amount compared to his typical workload. He finished the game with just six carries, the same as backfield mate Mark Ingram and less than rookie Alvin Kamara.
For his part, Peterson downplayed the significance of the sideline exchange, claiming the dustup had more to do with offensive tactics than his workload.
"One thing I said to him was, 'Hey, let's run this inside zone.' And we came out, and we ran that," Peterson said after the game, reiterating the point colorfully on Twitter.
Let's be clear...I said we need to run the ball up their Donkey. Nothing more. I'm passionate but respect my coach at the same time- Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) September 12, 2017
After the game, Payton also brushed off any talk of tension.
"Listen, I'll tell you if we were in a heated exchange," Payton told reporters. "None that I can recall, and I am being honest."
Superstars in any sport often have the hardest time transitioning to a diminished skill set and the reduced role that comes along with it, so it's no surprise that AP would have a problem with how things were unfolding, if that were the case. But we'll have to see if this will have a lingering affect on the Saints, who must face the Patriots at home next Sunday.
Even if Payon and AP get on the same page, there are plenty of concerns surrounding the 32-year-old running back. Peterson said this offseason that he plans to play "five or six more years," but he missed 13 games last season to a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, the second major knee injury of his career. Even before the injury, Peterson's once elite-level burst had abandoned him, contributing to his woeful rushing average of 1.9 yards per carry. After the Vikings parted ways with Peterson in February, he languished on the open market until the end of April, over a month after the key free agents signed their respective deals. Peterson might think he has half a decade left in the tank, but the NFL's lack of interest in him cast doubts on the veracity of that belief.
And that difference of perspective appears to inform whatever feud exists between Peterson and the Saints. He expects to receive one of the biggest roles in the offense, yet the team views him as a part-time player most effective as part of a three-headed backfield rotation. Little if any common ground exists between those two extremes, and that could lead to more blowups like the one witnessed on Monday Night Football.
Read their lips.