Adrian Peterson sat in the front row of Ron Rivera’s introductory press conference last month, listening to what his new coach had to say. The Redskins running back heard how Rivera’s goal was to build a culture that ultimately resulted in winning a Super Bowl.
It was a message, Peterson said, that resonated with him.
“That’s my mentality,” Peterson said.
Peterson and Rivera share a similar philosophy, which helps explain why the Redskins picked up the running back’s contract for next season Wednesday. Peterson, who will turn 35 in March, will carry a cap hit of $3 million in the second year of the two-year, $5 million deal he signed in 2019.
The Redskins had a choice to decline the option, but by picking it up, it is an indication Washington thinks Peterson can still be a valuable contributor in the coming months.
Since joining the Redskins in 2018, Peterson has played an important role — serving as a well-respected leader inside the locker room. He was named a team captain last year and has been the Redskins’ leading rusher for the past two seasons. In 2019, Peterson rushed for 898 yards and five touchdowns on 211 attempts. The NFL also honored him last month with their annual Art Rooney sportsmanship award.
“Adrian Peterson is the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league,” Redskins coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “Adrian’s leadership and passion towards the game of football will set an example of what is expected of the players in this program moving forward.”
Peterson has been determined to prove he can still be a productive player despite his age. The former MVP was the third-oldest running back in the league in 2019, but still finished 17th in rushing yards.
Peterson’s sturdiness helped stabilize a running back room that has dealt with a series of injuries in recent history. Over the past two years, Peterson has played in 31 of 32 games — missing only one game because former coach Jay Gruden made him a healthy scratch in Week 1 last season.
That stability figures to be vital for Washington, given 2018 second-rounder Derrius Guice’s inability to stay healthy. Guice missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL, leading to Peterson’s signing. The next year, Guice suffered two more knee injuries — appearing in only five games before landing on injured reserve.
Besides Guice and Peterson, the Redskins also have 2019 fourth-rounder Bryce Love, who missed the entire season while rehabbing a torn ACL. Third-down specialist Chris Thompson will become a free agent in the spring.
A day after Washington’s season-finale, a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Peterson sounded like he had no intention to retire.
“Individually, when you look at yourself, no one knows you like you,” Peterson said. “For me, (2019) was a good eye-opener for me to go into this offseason and come back and have the best season of my career.
“I know that might sound crazy to some people, but if you were in my shoes, you would definitely understand where I’m coming from.”
With another year of carrying the ball, Peterson gets a shot at climbing the NFL’s career leader lists. He is eighth all-time in rushing attempts (3,036), fifth in rushing yards (14, 216) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (111).
Peterson needs 1,054 rushing yards to move past Barry Sanders for fourth place and 13 touchdowns to pass Marcus Allen for third in rushing touchdowns.
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