ASHBURN — The Redskins weren’t necessarily expecting to sign Adrian Peterson when they met with the veteran running back on Monday.
Sure, the franchise had a need at the position, given the mountain of injuries in recent weeks, but coach Jay Gruden told reporters Sunday that Washington was just “covering their bases.”
Then, the Redskins saw him work out.
“He’s actually a physical freak if you want to say that,” Gruden said. “The start of the workout … to the end of the workout, he didn’t even break a sweat hardly. He’s in great shape, explosive. That’s really what sold us.”
Added senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams: “What I saw [Monday], I saw a lot of fuel left in the tank.”
Now, the 33-year-old Peterson is ready to further impress.
After signing a one-year, $1.02 million deal, Peterson said Tuesday he’s “without a doubt” aiming to become Washington’s starting running back. He would be cheating himself, Peterson said, if that wasn’t his approach.
For now, Rob Kelley still figures to hold that role. Still, Peterson said he won’t allow himself to be “boxed in.”
“You are what you think,” Peterson said Tuesday after his first practice with the team. “You are what you put in. You know? Darrell Green ran a 4.4 at 50 years old. You know? Stuff like that. That motivates you. That tells you, ‘Hey, anything is possible.’ So that’s how I’ve always viewed any situation that I’ve been in and even that’s how I view the doubters as well.”
Peterson certainly has his doubters.
Over the last two seasons, Peterson has averaged 3.1 yards per carry — which is the third-lowest average of running backs that have had at least 150 carries in that span, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Skeptics see an aging player who isn’t effective at his job anymore, regardless of Peterson’s pedigree.
There’s also a lengthy injury history with Peterson. Last year, Peterson’s season, in which he rushed for 529 yards and two touchdowns, was limited to 10 games after he suffered a season-ending neck injury. The Arizona Cardinals released him in March and he went unsigned until the Redskins called.
But Peterson said he never doubted himself. He recalled training over the summer with NFL players who were 21 and 22 years old — and still outworking them.
That work ethic helped Peterson land a job with the Redskins.
“The average guy that has accomplished what Adrian has accomplished probably would feel like, ‘I don’t have to work out. You sign me,’” Williams said. “But, he didn’t come in here with that attitude. I think it shows you the person he is, that he has humility and he realized he wanted to play.”
Moving forward, Peterson will have to fight to make the 53-man roster.
Samaje Perine (ankle) is expected to be back soon and Gruden said he envisions Peterson being primarily a first-and-second down back, which could hinder his ability to make the roster. (The Redskins want to have a backup to third-down specialist Chris Thompson, who is coming off a broken leg.)
But Peterson is up for the challenge.
He said he sees a “great opportunity” with the Redskins, particularly with left tackle (and old college teammate) Trent Williams and a “good offensive line” blocking for him.
Peterson will play Friday against the Denver Broncos.
“I knew the opportunity would present itself,” Peterson said, “and at the end of the day, God willing, stay healthy, the guy’s up front stay healthy as well, I know that I’ll be able to contribute in a big way in the run game.”
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