By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS — Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s most productive running back for much of the past decade, has decided to head into the twilight of his career as a potential backup in New Orleans’ pass-happy offense.
The Saints on Tuesday came to terms on a two-year contract with Peterson, a 10- year veteran who has posted seven 1,000- yard seasons with Minnesota and once eclipsed 2,000 yards.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he envisions a productive role for Peterson, who is coming back from a 2016 meniscal tear that required season-ending knee surgery after only three games.
“It’s rare and unique to have the opportunity to add a (potential) Hall of Fame player to your roster. His career has been top-notch,” Payton said in a statement provided by the club. “We think he will be an excellent fit in our locker room and in our offense.”
The agreement was first reported early Tuesday when Peterson provided a statement to ESPN.
“It goes without saying that the Saints are r ally solid behind Drew Br es. I feel like my skillset can make them even more dominant (offensively),” Peterson said in a statement. “They have a great offensive line, which is something that stood out to me as well.”
Peterson, 32, has spent his entire NFL career with the Vikings, which happens to be the team against which the Saints open the 2017 regular season – in Minnesota.
“If there’s not enough excitement going into the first game of the season, obviously him coming back here provides even more,” Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said.
“I would assume he’ll have a warm welcome when he comes back here. He’s done so much for this organization and the Twin Cities. … I’m just glad I’m not on defense and don’t have to tackle him.”
At least some Vikings who might have to tackle Peterson next September seemed ready to embrace the challenge, noting that they were never really allowed to touch Peterson at practice.
“It’s going to be a fun opportunity now,because every time he is in there I’ll be like, ‘Ooh, I can’t wait,’” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “Now we get the opportunity to go out and really hit him.”
Peterson’s career-best 2,097-yard rushing season in 2012 came one season after he had reconstructive knee surgery to repair a to n ACL.
Over the past three seasons combined, Peterson has played in only 21 games, including one playoff loss. He missed all but one game in 2014 because of a child abuse case in which he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless assault. The victim was his son, then 4 yea old.
Peterson’s last full season was in 2015, when he had 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing.
Now Peterson joins a Saints backfield led by running back Mark Ingram, who is coming off one of his best season and is New Orleans incumbent starter, Ingram rushed for 1,043 yards in 2016 and made 46 catches out of the backfield, helping Brees lead the NFL in passing with 5,208 yards.
Speaking on a conference call Tuesday evening, Ingram said the Saints never solicited his opinion about adding Peterson, but he didn’t seem bothered by that, or the Saints’ ultimate decision to bring in the former Vikings star.
“If that’s what helps us win, I’m all about winning, so I’m all for it,” Ingram said.
“The opportunity to play with a guy like that s special. I’ll learn a lot from him.”
Ingram added that he’s had to compete for carries his whole career.
“It’s nothing new,” Ingram said. “I’m not going to shy away from competition, and that’s just bottom line.”
Like Ingram, Peterson has demonstrated he can contribute as a passing target out of the backfield, surpassing 200 yards receiving in a season five times, including 436 yards in 2009.
In his statement, Peterson didn’t seem concerned about how frequently he’d get the ball in the Saints’ system.
“I could tell from talking to head coach Sean Payton over the last two weeks that he did his due diligence in evaluating how I could contribute, Peterson said.