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After the Redskins’ final game of the season, running back Adrian Peterson delivered a message to teammates, urging them to be passionate about what they do and focused in the offseason.
Work on being a champion first, he said, and everything else — stats, Pro Bowls, MVPs — would come.
“That’s the mindset I’ve always played with and approached the game with,” Peterson told reporters.
Peterson’s address wasn’t the first time the veteran running back gave the Redskins a pep talk this season.
Over the last seven weeks of the season, after Alex Smith went down with a broken leg, the soft-spoken Peterson increasingly emerged as a vocal locker-room leader.
Peterson’s years in the league and his career accomplishments made him a voice teammates respected.
That, along with the future Hall-of-Famer’s surprising success in the Redskins backfield this season, are a couple of reasons the team will explore bringing the 33-year-old back in 2019.
Coach Jay Gruden has said he would like to see Peterson return, even though second-rounder Derrius Guice is expected to be back and recovered from a torn ACL.
Peterson has also said he’d like to stay with the Redskins.
Gruden said he believes a backfield of Peterson, Guice and Chris Thompson can work.
“You could do that for sure,” Gruden said. “That wouldn’t be a bad thing to have. You still have Byron Marshall too and Samaje Perine, so I think the stable of backs are very interesting here once everybody is healthy. I would love to see Adrian come back healthy. He was banged up the whole second half of the season and he played through it and still played pretty good.”
Added Peterson: “It always good to have a couple of backs in there, different styles.”
Before Guice suffered his season-ending knee injury in August, the LSU product was on his way to becoming the Redskins’ lead back. His absence was the primary reason why Washington signed Peterson in the first place.
The Redskins, though, won’t precisely know how Guice will perform once he returns, which is why bringing back Peterson would make sense. Guice, like Smith, also dealt with post-op infections and his recovery has been delayed, he told the Washington Post.
Still, will Peterson be content if he assumes a smaller role next season with the Redskins?
He ran the ball 251 times for 1,042 yards this season, his most in three years. And the last time he was part of a running back rotation, Peterson grew frustrated over the lack of carries and the New Orleans Saints traded him after just four games in 2017.
But the Redskins were more than pleased with Peterson throughout the year. On Monday, Gruden said coaching Peterson was a high point in his career.
Check out the top photos from the Redskins' 2018 regular season.
Repeatedly, Gruden praised Peterson’s work ethic and impact on the team.
“I was a little nervous when we first got him. I was like man, if don’t give this guy 20 times a game, he’s going to kick my butt,” Gruden said with a laugh. “He’s been very good man, he’s been very patient, very understanding about the rotations … He’s just been a great guy to have on our team.”
Peterson’s impact on the Redskins won’t stop now that the season is over.
Even though he’s not under contract, he has invited Guice, Thompson, tight end Jordan Reed and other teammates to train with him this offseason in Houston, where he co-owns a gym with Trent Williams.
Typically, it’s Williams and the offensive line that gets together in Houston during the offseason.
“For me, naturally, it kind of unfolded that way,” Peterson said of his leadership. “You kind of want to have the quarterback have that role and losing him, other guys had to step up and kind of be more vocal, be that voice for the team.
“I took it upon myself to use my voice when I could.”