The Washington Redskins addressed the depth in their backfield on Monday, officially signing free agent running back Adrian Peterson to a new contract. In another move, Washington also signed running back De'Veon Smith and waived tackle Cameron Jefferson, designated as injured.
After rookie running back Derrius Guice was lost for the season with an injured ACL in early August, and running backs Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall left Thursday night’s preseason game against the Jets with ankle injuries, Washington needed to fill the void at the position, which had just three members following Saturday’s practice.
“I’m excited,” Peterson said. “It’s been a long offseason but I’ve been keeping my body in shape and [I’m] ready for this opportunity. So when this opportunity presented itself, I was just excited.”
Peterson was the third running back to work out for the Redskins after Orleans Darkwa and Jamaal Charles reportedly visited the facility on Sunday. Head coach Jay Gruden told reporters that he wanted to see the progress of Perine and Marshall before the team made any roster decisions.
“The big thing is to make sure I have three up for [Week 1 game versus] Arizona [Cardinals],” Gruden said Sunday. “So I think I have three in house that I feel very good about and maybe get another in here to compete and go from there."
As it stands, Peterson will be that guy, and will have two preseason games to acclimate himself.
“I would be lying to you if I said [the offseason] wasn’t tough, because you’re human,” Peterson said. “I’ve seen guys come through that door and guys go through this process. I had a great appreciation for it. But me knowing what I had left in the tank, that was the only thing bothering me. But I knew in due time the opportunity would present itself.”
After playing 10 seasons in Minnesota, Peterson signed with the New Orleans Saints before the 2017 season and played in four games, rushing 27 times for 81 yards, before being traded to Arizona. As a member of the Cardinals, he rushed 3.5 yards per carry, seeing action in six games in which he totaled 448 rushing yards. As a receiver, Peterson caught 11 passes for 70 yards combined last season.
The 33-year-old and 2012 NFL MVP ranks 12th on the all-time rushing list with 12,276 rushing yards, just three yards away from passing Marshall Faulk and 36 yards away from eclipsing Jim Brown’s record. Among active rushers, he ranks second only to Frank Gore.
Peterson, a Palestine, Texas, native, played at Oklahoma University from 2004-06 rushing for 4,041 yards and 41 rushing touchdowns. During his senior year, Trent Williams, a freshman at the time, blocked for him as a right tackle for half of the season in which Peterson averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
Williams and Peterson have remained close and both train together at Williams’ workout facility in Houston, Texas, each offseason. Peterson, who knows about returning quickly from a knee injury after tearing his ACL 2011, helped Williams do the same over the summer after the All-Pro left tackle underwent knee surgery this past winter.
“I’m super excited,” Williams said of Peterson signing. “It’s a dream come true. Obviously we played before but his body of work and what he’s done in this league speaks for itself, so guys are always going to be eager to pay with him. Him being like a brother to me only enhances that.”
Peterson could only reciprocate the feeling of being back with Williams, and with an organization in which he feels strongly.
"I'm elated. I'm so excited to have this opportunity," Peterson said. "It's been a long time coming, and I promise you I'm going to give you everything that I have inside, and for me I'm just happy to be part of a great organization, a good team offensively and defensively and to run behind a great offensive line."