In an ESPN poll last month, his NFL peers voted Peterson, 28, the player they most want to see win a Super Bowl ring. After failing to make the playoffs, the Vikings' All-Pro running back underwent groin surgery on Jan. 23 and will be ready for next season.
DAN PATRICK:I don't ask men this very often, but how's your groin?
ADRIAN PETERSON: It's feeling pretty good. I'm getting around well.
DP: You look thinner.
AP: I haven't worked out in a month.
DP:Shouldn't you get fatter?
AP: Normally you do, but with my genetics I get slimmer.
DP:Do people ask to see the scars from your knee surgeries?
AP: All the time.
DP:Do you show them?
AP: Yeah, why not?
DP:I'm not going to ask to see the groin scar.
AP: Please don't.
DP:How often do you think about the fact that you haven't been to a Super Bowl?
AP: I think about it every season. After this year I sat back and thought, Another missed opportunity. When we played the Saints, you couldn't have told me we wouldn't be back in the NFC championship game.
DP:What bothers you about that 2010 loss to New Orleans?
AP: [The Saints'] Reggie Bush muffed a punt, and we got the ball at the 10-yard line [right before] halftime. I'll never forget the play. It was an outside zone play [on which he fumbled]. That bothers me the most.
DP:Do you think they were going after quarterback Brett Favre in that game?
AP: Not really.
DP:Not even safety Darren Sharper?
AP: Sharp definitely had something against him. He lit him up a couple of times.
DP:How goofy was Favre?
AP: He was one of the funniest people I've been around.
DP:What about Favre as a player?
AP: I remember running a five-yard check-down route. That ball came by me so fast, [I felt] the wind, and I was like, Wow.
DP:Do you think the Vikings will draft a quarterback?
AP: I don't know. I hope not.
DP:Who do you want to start next year?
AP: Matt Cassel. We were productive when he was behind center. If [we do] draft a quarterback, [Johnny] Manziel or [Teddy] Bridgewater. They have the potential to come in and play.
DP:How many years until you start thinking you might need a trade out of Minnesota?
AP: I'm the type of person who likes to keep hope and faith alive. But then again, it's a business. I've seen guys who've been done dirty, from Peyton Manning to Brett Favre.
DP:What's your fanciest car?
AP: I have a Bentley. It's my baby.
DP:What's in better shape, you or the Bentley?
AP: Me. It looks so pretty on the outside, but it's been through some rough times.
Bears running back Matt Forte isn't in favor of compensating NCAA athletes with anything more than a scholarship. "College is about struggles," Forte told me. "You have to be motivated to get to the next level, where you do get paid." ... Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he isn't surprised that his backup, Michael Vick, wants to start: "Mike's a competitor. You should see him compete on the basketball court. It brings a little something else out of him.... And Mike can still flat-foot dunk. One of the best athletes I've ever seen." ... Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith told me he gets one of two reactions from most fans. " 'I love the Cowboys, but I really love you,' " Smith said. "Or they say, 'You were great on Dancing with the Stars.' [That show] gave 20 million people a chance to see me do something without a helmet on."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PETERSON)
JOHN LAMPARSKI/GETTY IMAGES (FORTE)
JED JACOBSOHN FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (FOLES)
SLAVEN VLASIC/GETTY IMAGES (SMITH)