Peterson, the NFL’s eighth all-time leading rusher with 13,138 career yards, is Washington’s backup to Derrius Guice. But the Redskins rarely have kept four running backs active in coach Jay Gruden’s tenure. That means they want the backup to contribute on special teams; Peterson doesn’t. Instead, Wendell Smallwood, claimed off waivers from Philadelphia a week ago, plays on multiple special teams.
The move angered some Redskins veterans, according to a source. He’s widely respected for his humility, work habits and his history. Peterson is tied for fifth all-time with 106 rushing touchdowns.
“I’m doing good. I’m OK,” Peterson told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio when asked for comment.
Peterson, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason, knew there was a possibility of this happening. Peterson told ESPN he wasn’t worrying about it because, “I just control the things I can control, make sure I’m working out, busting my butt during the week and I know what the game plan is. If I’m cheering on my team, then I’m cheering on my team. It is what it is.”
Peterson also said he understood when he originally signed with Washington in August of 2018 that it was because of Guice’s torn ACL. Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games; because of injuries in the second half of the season, Peterson was the Redskins’ main focal point. He played with four quarterbacks and behind a line that was constantly changing because of injuries.
However, even late in the season coaches talked about Guice and what they felt he could do.
“They drafted this kid in the second round, of course they want to give him a shot,” Peterson said last week. “He’s been working really hard to come back and get on the field. I’m paid to do what they ask me to do.”
Still, it’s an unusual spot for Peterson, entering his 13th season. Two years ago he signed with New Orleans but lasted only four games, with one widely viewed sideline exchange with Saints coach Sean Payton. New Orleans traded him to Arizona.
There was some debate in the Redskins’ organization about releasing Peterson a week ago, but it did not appear to have a lot of support, one source said. Regardless, he’s now in an unfamiliar role — one he’s seen many others have in the past.
“That’s why I have an appreciation for the grind and the process I’ve been through the last couple years,” Peterson said. “I was in Minnesota for 10 years, I saw guys rotate through that building every year, have short stays. So me going through it towards the end of my career, it’s not that big of a deal. Guys have made a livelihood of playing on different teams throughout the year. So I just embrace it and appreciate that I’m still in position to play after 13 years.”