“‘Man, the Redskins are really packing that running back room, huh?’” is how Peterson says the conversation usually starts. The 14-year veteran knows teams are always looking for an upgrade, and in each of the last two offseasons, the Redskins have added enough talent at running back to raise questions about whether the future Hall of Famer’s role in the offense will diminish.
This year is no exception.
The Washington Redskins picked up Peterson’s contract option a few months ago, but then added J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber and Antonio Gibson through free agency and the draft. As a result, Peterson’s position is once again stacked — the Redskins have seven running backs on the roster, including Derrius Guice and Bryce Love, the team’s 2019 fourth-rounder who missed all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL.
But on a Zoom call Thursday with reporters, Peterson said he embraces the challenge.
“I’ve always had the mindset of being open to competition — that’s what it’s all about,” Peterson said. “You know guys pushing each other. … You still gotta lace ‘em up.”
That mentality has worked out in Peterson’s favor in the past. The 35-year-old has been Washington’s leading rusher for the last two seasons, even working his way back into the starter’s job in 2019, despite being a healthy scratch in Week 1.
On the surface, only Barber’s signing appears to be in direct competition with Peterson. McKissic and Gibson figure to be Washington’s third-down back, a role previously held by Chris Thompson (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars). Still, Peterson will have to beat out Barber, Guice and Love to be Washington’s main back again.
Peterson said he’s excited to see how his new teammates look in person. A few weeks ago, Peterson reached out to Washington’s younger backs and gave them his cell phone number, he said. The former MVP offered to be a resource and urged them to ask questions for whatever help they need.
But while Peterson may not mind the new faces at his position, he admitted there was a Redskins move this offseason that upset him: The Redskins traded his close friend Trent Williams to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I didn’t like the trade,” Peterson said. “Put it this way, I feel like Trent is the best offensive lineman in the game. … I was hoping there would be some good ending to him and what the Redskins were dealing with.
“But I’m happy for him. I’ve known Trent since he was in high school. As long as he’s happy, that’s what matters.”
Despite the deal, Peterson didn’t sound like a person about to demand a trade of his own anytime soon. Instead, he raved over Dwayne Haskins’ potential. Peterson said he was expecting “big things” for his quarterback’s upcoming season.
As a whole, Peterson said he thinks this is the best group of talent the Redskins have assembled since his arrival. It was the type of optimism that can normally be heard this time of year, but Peterson said he was encouraged by the talent on both sides of the ball.
“I feel like we have what it takes to be that team that takes it all the way,” Peterson said.
Yes, Peterson actually referenced winning the Super Bowl for a team coming off a 3-13 season. Again, optimism runs wild in the spring.
But the running back sets the bar high. He has yet to win a championship in his career and who knows how much longer he has left?
Peterson wasn’t about the lower the bar now.
“My mindset, I want to be a guy that helps leads us to a championship,” Peterson said. “Whatever role that is that I’ll be taking part in, I’m going to put my best foot forward.”
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