There was no stopping Kapri Bibbs now. The Washington Redskins reserve running back was standing in front of his locker at the team’s practice facility Wednesday afternoon, talking about the man he considers the greatest back of his generation.
“He’s a great dude,” Bibbs said about Adrian Peterson, his voice rising above the din of conversation around him. “He works hard, man, he works hard as [expletive]! And it’s great to pick the brain of a man who had the success he’s had in this league.”
Bibbs pointed to the nameplate above Peterson’s locker, which by the luck of an equipment man’s assignment wound up beside his. He beamed at the thought: The great Adrian Peterson dressing right next to him, Kapri Bibbs. Who would have imagined?
“This man is a role model,” Bibbs continued. “It was like AP with the elbow pads coming to play.”
Bibbs was going so fast he didn’t notice Peterson had walked into the locker room, after his second day of practice as a Washington Redskin, dressed only in football pants. Peterson sat down and quietly listened to an impromptu testimonial from his new teammate, who was practically lunging into his locker space.
“The Packers were my team growing up,” Bibbs said, waving his arms. “And he broke them for like 180 yards, kicking my guys, knocking them down with one arm. I was like: ‘Come on, man, nobody dominates the NFL like this! Who is this guy? Peterson. No. 28?’ It was for real with him. It was real, for you could see the box change as guys said: ‘We can’t let 28 get going.’ ”
Peterson nodded from his chair as Bibbs talked and talked and talked. At times he smiled, but mostly he took in what had become something resembling a Hall of Fame introduction speech from a player he might not have known existed before they first met in a position meeting Tuesday morning. When someone suggested that Peterson have Bibbs introduce him on the night he is enshrined in Canton, Ohio, he chuckled.
“I’d be honored!” Bibbs said.
What must it be like to be a young running back in the NFL, a young man thirsting to achieve greatness, and suddenly have one of the game’s best running backs sitting next to you in the locker room? Peterson has arrived as a 33-year-old free agent, expecting to start, probably taking the job of one of the players around him, yet the backs with whom he has shared the field the last two days seem to be thrilled he is here. They talk to him during slow moments at practice, stopping by his seat in the locker room.
None more so than Bibbs, who might be the player who loses the most with Peterson’s arrival. Washington probably will keep only four running backs going into the season. Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley seem to be locks. Samaje Perine, who returned to practice Wednesday after nursing a sprained ankle, is likely to make the team. If Peterson is the fourth back, Bibbs could be gone in 10 days.
But Bibbs doesn’t think like that. “If you start looking around, one way or another, you are going to get in trouble,” he said. So he doesn’t view Peterson as the player who might take his job, he views him as “AP,” the man with a locker next to his at the team’s facility, who downloaded his music and shared that he loves R&B and was in fact listening to Jamie Foxx as they chatted Wednesday afternoon.
Tutoring players such as Bibbs wasn’t the intended impact of Peterson’s signing with the Redskins. They added him in hopes he can help fill a void at the position following injuries to second-round pick Derrius Guice, Perine and Byron Marshall, believing there might be enough brilliance left in him as he nears the end of his career to make his acquisition worth the effort. But there is also the chance that the presence of a player such as him, a former MVP, can make others better.
“He [has] already impressed a lot of people out here just in the way he runs and how fast he works,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday. “It won’t be long before he rubs off on anybody and everybody.”
Already it seems Peterson has inspired the man in the locker beside his, the one he might inadvertently knock from the roster. The stories of his relentless training routine have passed through the locker room. Gruden, upon seeing Peterson, called him “a physical freak.” Bibbs wasn’t surprised to see how well-conditioned Peterson was when they worked together on the field at Peterson’s first practice Tuesday, with Bibbs holding on to the back of a long rubber band that was wrapped around Peterson’s waist as Peterson tugged him along.
What really impressed Bibbs was how much Peterson seemed normal, like the rest of them, someone who was happy to sit in the seat next to his and talk about anything from music to family to football.
“He’s a good . . . guy,” Bibbs said after Peterson had left the room. “He’s a good dude, humble, easy to talk to, no ego. For him to be able to be that way, I have a lot of respect for him. You think about it, he’s a Hall of Famer, one of the few people who have run for 2,000 yards [in a season]. After everything he has done in his career, he could have been one of those guys, but he’s not one of those guys.”
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