Washington releases Adrian Peterson, turns to young backs

Sports

Washington running back Adrian Peterson (26) works out during practice at the team’s NFL football training facility, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington released veteran running back Adrian Peterson on Friday, a stunning move by first-year coach Ron Rivera in the name of getting younger.

Rivera called Peterson early in the morning asking him to come to the practice facility, then delivered the news the team was moving on from the 35-year-old star. The move came less than 36 hours before NFL rosters must be trimmed to the 53-man limit and nine days before the start of the regular season.

“It’s not about what he hasn’t done or anything like that, but it’s about what this group of backs has shown us, especially in the way that the offense has headed,” Rivera said. “Adrian is a true pro. I was fortunate to just be with him this summer.”

Peterson played the past two seasons with Washington, rushing for 1,940 yards and 12 touchdowns in the fourth stop of a career that will likely earn him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He originally signed in the summer of 2018 after rookie Derrius Guice was lost for the season with a knee injury, and kept his starting job in 2019.

Now, afterGuice’s release following a domestic violence arrest, he, Peterson and longtime third-down back Chris Thompson are all gone, and the backfield has a decidedly young look. Replacing them will be a committee approach between rookies Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love and free agent additions Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic.

“We’re about to find out what our young players can do more so than anything else,” Rivera said. “One of the things we have to find out is where we are with those guys. This is also what this allows us to do, is play these young players and put them in a position where they’ll be on the field.”

Love is finally healthy after a knee injury ended his college career in December 2018. Gibson excited Washington by playing a hybrid running back/receiver role at Memphis, and Rivera compared his potential to Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey.

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Gibson has done a good job in training camp but was vague about his role Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“This is a very talented, gifted young man that did a lot of different things,” Rivera said Thursday. “We’re trying to hone his skills to fit what we believe he can do. It’s been an interesting growth period. It’s been good.”

Peterson is now thrown into limbo after being blindsided by his release. He’s 1,053 yards behind Barry Sanders for fourth on the all-time rushing list and needs 12 TDs to catch Marcus Allen for the third most in NFL history.

“I still want to play the game,” Peterson said in a radio appearance on Washington’s 106.7 FM. “That’s something I’ve said for the past couple of years now, and I felt like I had a great camp.”

Rivera told his players of the decision to release Peterson and made it clear it was no accident this happened before cut day. He wanted to give Peterson his own day as a sign of respect.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins tweeted that he was a huge fan of Peterson growing up and wished him the best of luck.

“Having the opportunity to be his teammate and learn from him has been an experience I’ll never forget,” Haskins said. “Thank you for always having my back, big bro! I’m going to make you proud.”

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