Four days after he was signed by the Washington Redskins, Peterson was in the lineup and rushed for 56 yards on 11 carries in Friday’s preseason game against the Denver Broncos.
“I saw a big guy running pretty hard really,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters. “He had a five-yard average I believe, had a couple good bounces, and, you know, the thing I like about some of his runs is they look like they’re like gains of ones and he’d fall forward for a gain of three. The first run of the day I thought it was a three-yard gain and he ends up second and three.
“I was impressed with Adrian and the way he ran.”
It was the first game action for Peterson since late November, when he suffered a neck injury and was placed on season-ending injured reserve by the Arizona Cardinals.
Gruden lauded Peterson’s conditioning after watching him practice earlier in the week, and the seven-time Pro Bowler said he felt no worse for wear after the 29-17 loss to Denver.
“My body feels good right now,” said Peterson after the game. “I will see how it feels in the morning. But I feel like it responded well. It felt good, didn’t get tired, so cardio is where it needs to be and right now I’m looking at it as knocking a little rust off.”
Peterson’s longest run was 15 yards, which came at a key juncture with the Redskins facing a fourth-and-1 situation and the partisan crowd cheering his name.
“I definitely felt the love,” acknowledged Peterson. “I heard a little chant of ‘AP’ on that fourth-and-one, and I was like, ‘I got to get this first down.'”
Despite the impressive effort by Peterson, Gruden said Rob Kelley is expected to enter the season as his starting running back. Kelley had 19 yards on eight carries against Denver.
Washington is thin at running back after a series of injuries at that position. Rookie Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending torn ACL, and Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall each sustained ankle injuries that has sidelined them.
Gruden believes Perine could return for the preseason finale and said he wasn’t sure if Peterson will also play in that game.
“We’ll see. I’m going to check out the tape and see how he’s feeling body-wise and we’ll go from there,” said Gruden of Perine. “I think Samaje should be OK by Thursday. We’ll get some good looks at them and we’ve got some other guys to look at. We’ve still got a lot of work to do as far as Thursday’s concerned; we’re looking at players.”
Peterson played in 10 games for the New Orleans Saints and Cardinals last year before injuring his neck. He rushed for 81 yards in four games, including one start, for the Saints before being acquired by the Cardinals. He added 448 yards in six games, all as a starter, for Arizona.
The 33-year-old Peterson rushed for a league-leading 1,485 yards for the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, when he was named All-Pro for a fourth time. However, he was limited to three games and 72 rushing yards in 2016 and was released by the Vikings in March 2017.
Peterson was named the league MVP in 2012, when he rushed for 2,097 yards. His 12,276 career rushing yards rank second among active players, behind only Frank Gore, and rank 12th all time.