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Adrian Peterson Wants To Be A Competitor, Mentor For His Young Teammates


Antonio Gibson had just signed onto his virtual position meetings when Adrian Peterson appeared on his screen.

Like most young players entering the NFL, Gibson grew up watching Peterson's career, including his recent seasons with the Redskins. Gibson didn't think he was going to be start-struck, but he still couldn't contain his excitement.

"I was like, 'Man, that's A.P.!" Gibson said. "'That's really A.P.!"

Peterson knows a lot of young players look up to him, so he's fine with those reactions. But he also shares a lesson with them that he learned from LaDainian Tomlinson when he was a rookie: respect your peers, but always put in the work to be the best. And in a crowded group filled with young talent, Peterson wants to balance competing with being a mentor.

"There's nothing wrong with respecting me or other running backs that you might look up to, but you want to have in your mindset that you are going to be the best to play the game," Peterson told local reporters in May. "You can't just think about that. You obviously have to put the work in as well."

Bringing back Peterson was the first move head coach Ron Rivera and vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith made to restructure the running back position. Seven weeks after Rivera officially joined the team, the Redskins exercised their club option on Peterson’s contract, ensuring the 14-year veteran would be back for a third season.

"Adrian Peterson is the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league," Rivera said in a press release announcing the move. "Adrian's leadership and passion towards the game of football will set an example of what is expected of the players in this program moving forward."

Since then, the position has nearly doubled in size. By signing J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber in free agency followed by drafting Gibson in the third round of this year's NFL Draft, the Redskins have seven running backs on the roster.

"I like it," Peterson said. "It was a good move by the Redskins organization. When you've got good players and playmakers out there, you want to add those guys to your team. I'm excited to actually get back out there, put the pads on, and see how these guys look in person."

It is likely that the coaching staff shares that sentiment, because the chances of the Redskins keeping all seven running backs on the roster are slim. So, Peterson and the other six players will need to compete for a spot on the final roster.

Peterson loves that.

"That's what it's all about, guys pushing each other. I will embrace it the same way," he said. "you've got to lace [your cleats] up and get out there and execute and produce at the end of the day."

Peterson has played in a variation of the Redskins' new offense before, so he knows what it takes to stand out in his position. The offense needs versatile running backs who can protect and be a good receiver as well as be efficient at running the football.

At the same time, he wants to help his teammates become better players. Peterson said he loves to compete, but "there's nothing like the comradery that happens within the locker room and being around so many guys from so many different backgrounds."

"I want to see those guys prosper, I want to see those guys take their game to the max, to their potential. I'm not that guy that's going to withhold something, to get myself an edge. A lot of these guys look up to me and still do at a young age. I'm going to do my part."

That's why he gave all of the new running backs his phone number when they met for the first time in virtual meetings. He hasn't heard from any of them so far, but he knows they'll be around once the season starts.

"I told them the door is open for them to reach out," he said. "I'm sure that they'll want to pick my brain and ask me things, as far as how my recovery is during the week and so forth. We'll see."

Peterson can already count on Gibson being one of those players.

"I know he knows so much being in the game that long," Gibson told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael. "I know he's got a lot to teach, and I'm willing to ask him for it. I'm going to ask him about little details about how he survived that long, because that's the plan."

Peterson's main focus heading into the 2020 season remains the same: win the division and get into the playoffs. He doesn't care what role he plays in that goal; he just wants to contribute, whether that be as a competitor or a mentor to players like Tomlinson was to him.

"It feels good to kind of flip positions and be that guy that's delivering that message to a lot of young guys now."