LANDOVER — Asked if it felt weird to play in a preseason game, Adrian Peterson smiled.
For so many years throughout his career, the running back begged his coaches to play in the preseason. The answer, of course, was always no — given the risk of getting hurt wasn’t worth it for a player of his caliber.
But when Peterson signed with the Redskins earlier this week, he knew he no longer had to pester his coaches. At this stage of his career, the 33-year-old had to take the field because the Redskins needed to see how much he had left.
He was up for the challenge.
Though it was only one game, the Redskins were impressed with what they saw out of Peterson in Friday’s 29-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Peterson rushed for 56 yards on 11 attempts — good for 5.1 yards per carry. That was higher than last year’s average of 3.4 yards, which has been the go-to number for those skeptical the former MVP can still produce in 2018.
Moving forward, Peterson will have to prove he can perform consistently on a week-to-week basis, but for now, the running back demonstrated he can still be explosive with his legs.
“I feel good, I can tell you that much,” Peterson said.
The Redskins went to Peterson early and often. Despite coach Jay Gruden insisting the Redskins weren’t looking for a starter to replace Rob Kelley, Peterson started the game with Alex Smith and the rest of the first-string offense.
He didn’t stop there. Peterson showed patience and speed, rushing for gains of 13 and 15 yards. The latter came on a fourth-and-one — in which Peterson bounced to the outside and made a defender whiff.
“I thought he did a really nice job,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “Tall order. The guy just got here, got up to speed fast and all of a sudden, he’s getting a bunch of touches in a football game … I thought it was good to get in a rhythm to see what he can still do.”
This was Peterson’s first in-game action since November of last season. The Arizona Cardinals released him in March and went unsigned until the Redskins signed him on Monday.
“My body feels good right now,” Peterson said. “I will see how it feels in the morning. But I feel like it responded well. It felt good, didn’t get tired, so cardio is where it needs to be and right now, I’m looking at it as knocking a little rust off.”
Gruden did not indicate if Peterson will play next Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens in the team’s fourth preseason game. Typically, coaches withhold veterans and starters — though Peterson is not considered a lock to make the 53-man roster.
Do the Redskins need Peterson to play? “We’ll see,” Gruden said.
But Gruden liked what he saw overall.
“The thing I liked about some of his runs, it looked like gains on ones and he’d fall forward for a gain of three,” Gruden said. “The first run of the day, I thought it was a gain of three and he ends up second-and-3. … I was impressed with Adrian, with the way he ran.”
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