• Shot Clock: Adrian Peterson is a Cardinal, will he lead the way?

    Shot Clock: Adrian Peterson is a Cardinal, will he lead the way?

  • Cardinals trade for Adrian Peterson, Peter King Reacts

    Cardinals trade for Adrian Peterson, Peter King Reacts

  • Adrian Peterson traded to the Arizona Cardinals

    Adrian Peterson traded to the Arizona Cardinals

Adrian Peterson arrives 10 years too late. And just on time.

He joins a desperate group of Cardinals, a football team that needs confidence, inspiration and someone to break a few tackles. He represents a hope intervention. He is a spark in a season going dark.

Can he still play? Great question. He’s not as good as you desire or remember, and certainly not the player who could’ve delivered multiple Super Bowl titles to Arizona, if only the Cardinals had drafted him over Levi Brown in the 2007 NFL draft.

Peterson is the Cardinal sin for a franchise that once ranked among the most incompetent operations in professional sports. During lean years, Larry Fitzgerald wistfully wondered how the NFL would’ve coped with an offense that featured Peterson, Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner.

Answer: Not well.

But Peterson is not as washed up as skeptics fear.

He’s still angry. His wild eyes still tell his story. He still wants the ball as often as possible, hasn’t lost his taste for contact, and his disenchantment over his role in New Orleans speaks to unsated hunger.  

At the very worst, he’s better than any running back on the active roster.

The acquisition of Peterson works on three levels.

In the span of 48 hours, the Cardinals were throttled by the Eagles, a white-flag performance that ranked among the most pathetic efforts in the tenure of coach Bruce Arians. The Diamondbacks were swept by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, a lopsided matchup that mocked our World Series aspirations. Valley sports fans were suddenly staring into a dark abyss, witnessing the end of baseball season and the closing of a championship window in Glendale.

CARDINALS 2017 SCHEDULE: Buccaneers in Glendale Sunday

Peterson will lift spirits inside the locker room for a team that badly needed someone with a bonfire in his belly. Nobody recognizes a hopeless cause more than the players in uniform, those operating inside the bubble. And judging from body language in Philadelphia, internal belief had reached rock bottom in Arizona.

There were reports of defensive players questioning Arians’ strategy on offense. The mild-mannered Patrick Peterson lost his mind on the sidelines. Former defensive back D.J. Swearinger blistered the Cardinals on Twitter, shaking his head at a team that keeps throwing jump balls to diminutive wide receivers. Something had to change.

Finally, Peterson will have a positive effect between the lines. The Cardinals’ running game has been rendered impotent in 2017, the worst ground game in the NFL. Arians is in his last lap as a football coach, too stubborn and too proud to change his big-play philosophy. But you can’t throw deep if opposing defense aren’t fearful of the alternative.

There is lingering concern about the Cardinals’ offensive line, and if their obvious deficiencies would make it impossible for any running back to move the chains. But D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone will return soon, and both are better run blockers than pass protectors. And Peterson’s intensity and reputation is markedly different than the nice-guy approach of David Johnson, and that could push this unit to fight harder, reach deeper.

In the hard-core world of the NFL, where game only respects game, Peterson still commands respect. That’s something the Cardinals lost during an alarming 2-3 start in 2017. That’s why a potent offense has lost its footing and its balance, where simple first downs are a constant struggle.

Peterson is clearly a roll of the dice, but the 32-year old running back is a different breed. He led the NFL in rushing at age 30. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards eight months after ACL surgery. He’s coming to a team and a fan base that sorely needs an emotional lift.

Even if it’s 10 years too late.

MORE CARDINALS: GM Steve Keim calls loss to Eagles the worst since NFC Championship rout

MORE CARDINALS: Cardinals trade for Adrian Peterson, release Chris Johnson

MORE CARDINALS: Arizona doing a belly flop when it comes to creating ‘splash’ plays


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Reach Bickley at [email protected] or 602-444-8253. Follow him on twitter.com/dan.bickley. Listen to “Bickley and Marotta” weekdays from 12-2 p.m. on 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station.