Washington released veteran Adrian Peterson on Friday, a formidable move from senior coach Ron Rivera to getting younger.
Rivera called Peterson early in the morning and asked him to come to the exercise facility. Then he conveyed the news that the 35-year-old star's team had moved on. The move came less than 36 hours before the NFL roster had to be trimmed to the 53-man limit and nine days before the regular season began.
"It's not about what he didn't do or anything, it's about what this group of backs has shown us, especially in relation to the way the crime went," Rivera said. “Adrian is a real professional. I was lucky enough to be just with him this summer. "
Peterson has played with Washington for the last two seasons, rushing for 1,940 yards and 12 touchdowns at the fourth stop in 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 to a knee injury, and kept his starting job in 2019.
Now, with Guice's release from domestic violence arrest, he, Peterson, and longtime third party Chris Thompson are all gone, and the backcourt looks decidedly young. They are powered by a committee approach between rookies Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love, as well as free agent additions Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic replaced.
"We're about to find out what our young players can do more than anything," said Rivera. “One of the things we have to find out is where we are with these guys. This also allows us to play these young players and put them in a position where they are on the field. "
Love is finally sane after a knee injury ended his college career in December 2018. Gibson wowed Washington by playing a hybrid running back / receiver role in Memphis, and Rivera compared his potential to Carolina's Christian McCaffrey.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Gibson did a good job at training camp but was vague about his role in week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"This is a very talented, gifted young man who has done a lot of different things," Rivera said Thursday. "We're trying to improve his skills so that they match what we think he can. It's been an interesting growth period. It was good."
Peterson is now suspended after being blinded by his release. He is 1,053 yards behind Barry Sanders, fourth on the all-time rushing list, and it takes 12 TDs to catch Marcus Allen for the third-highest place in NFL history.
"I still want to play the game," Peterson said on a radio appearance on Washington's 106.7 FM. "That's what I've been saying for the past few years and I felt like I had a great camp."
Rivera informed his players of the decision to release Peterson, making it clear that this wasn't an accident that happened before the cut day. He wanted to give Peterson his own day as a token of respect.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins tweeted that he was a huge Peterson fan and wished him the best of luck.
"Having the opportunity to be his teammate and learn from him was an experience I will never forget," said Haskins. “Thank you for always having my back, big brother! I will make you proud. "
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