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Saints, Adrian Peterson can find hope from past Hall of Famers

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Saints don't need a vintage AP to be effective (1:20)

ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett explains how a two-pronged running attack with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram could be a threat next season if Peterson signs with New Orleans. (1:20)


Longtime New Orleans Saints fans will see the Adrian Peterson signing and immediately think back to Earl Campbell and Jim Taylor -- two Hall of Fame running backs who finished their careers in New Orleans.

Campbell spent a year-and-a-half with the Saints after being traded from the Houston Oilers; the deal reunited him with coach Bum Phillips during Campbell's seventh season, 1984. He finished with 833 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards and one touchdown in 24 total games -- including one turn-back-the-clock 160-yard rushing outburst in his final season.

Taylor, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and played at LSU, came home for his final season to join the expansion Saints in their inaugural season. He had just 390 rushing yards, 251 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 14 games. But his jersey was retired by the Saints, along with that of Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins, who also finished his career with the expansion team.

The expectations for Peterson should be a little higher, even though he is 32 years old.

Sure, that's practically ancient for the running back position -- especially for a guy coming off of two significant knee injuries in recent years. But history actually offers a few reasons for optimism.

As I wrote Monday, the Saints don't need a vintage Peterson for him to make an impact as a No. 1-A back alongside Mark Ingram. They would happily take a repeat of Marcus Allen's 1993 season with the Kansas City Chiefs, LaDainian Tomlinson's 2010 season with the New York Jets, Emmitt Smith's 2004 season with the Arizona Cardinals, among a couple others.

I think ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay's projection -- 1,140 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns for Ingram; 912 and seven for Peterson -- is very realistic.

ESPN Stats and Information put together a list of some of the notable Hall of Fame running backs who finished their careers with other teams (some of which you may have forgotten). As you might expect, it's a mixed bag of some impressive performances, some forgettable ones and some in between:

LaDainian Tomlinson (New York Jets, age 31-32 in 2010-11). Tomlinson still had plenty of life left in New York, with a total of 1,194 rushing yards, 817 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 29 games. He had six games with 100-plus yards from scrimmage in his first 10 games in 2010 and a 100-yard receiving game in 2011.

Emmitt Smith (Arizona Cardinals, age 34-35 in 2003-04). Smith didn't do much in 2003 but finished strong in 2004 with 937 rushing yards, 105 receiving yards, nine touchdowns and two 100-yard rushing games.

Thurman Thomas (Miami Dolphins, age 34 in 2000). Thomas didn't do much, with 136 rushing yards, 117 receiving yards and one touchdown in nine games.

Marcus Allen (Kansas City Chiefs, age 33-37 in 1993-97). Allen remarkably found new life in Kansas City after his career had grown stale with the Los Angeles Raiders. He racked up another 3,698 rushing yards, 1,153 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns in five years with the Chiefs.

Eric Dickerson (Los Angeles Raiders, age 32 in 1992; Atlanta Falcons, age 33 in 1993). Dickerson had some strong performances with the Raiders, including two 100-yard rushing games and a total of 729 rushing yards, 85 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 16 games. He only played four games with Atlanta, with 91 rushing yards, 58 receiving yards and no touchdowns.

Tony Dorsett (Denver Broncos, age 34 in 1988). Dorsett had a decent finale with 703 rushing yards, 122 receiving yards, five touchdowns and two 100-yard rushing games in 16 games.

Earl Campbell (New Orleans Saints, age 29-30 in 1984-85). Campbell had just 833 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards and one touchdown in 24 games after the midseason trade -- but he left one lasting impression with his 160 yards and a TD against the Minnesota Vikings in 1985.

Franco Harris (Seattle Seahawks, age 34 in 1984). Harris' final year was forgettable: eight games, 170 rushing yards, 3 receiving yards and zero TDs.

O.J. Simpson (San Francisco 49ers, age 31-32 in 1978-79). O.J. still had a little bit of juice, with a total of 1,053 rushing yards, 218 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 23 games -- including one 100-yard rushing game and five games with 90-plus yards from scrimmage in 1978.

Jim Taylor (New Orleans Saints, age 32 in 1967). After nine years with the Green Bay Packers, Taylor came home to Louisiana to help get the Saints franchise off the ground. He had just 390 rushing yards, 251 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 14 games but had his jersey retired for the significance of his arrival.