Redskins Park had a different vibe this week, even if the team downplayed any increased sense of urgency with the regular season on the horizon.

Adrian Peterson was signed to bolster a banged-up group of running backs. Wednesday’s practice session had the fewest amount of medical absences in weeks, with just five players not on injured reserve sitting out. The structure switched from training-camp general workouts to specific game preparation for individual players, coverages and concepts.

Friday’s preseason matchup with the Denver Broncos likely will be the most game action the starters see this preseason, and possibly their last as many teams don’t want to risk injury a week before the regular season begins. Coach Jay Gruden said he’s still making decisions on how much the starters will play, but safety D.J. Swearinger wants all the playing time possible.

“You want to get used to dominating,” Swearinger said. “A chance to get used to dominating would be on Friday. If we can just lock in together as a whole, we can dominate.

“We need all the work we can get, all the work that Coach allows us to get. After this week, it’s live bullets when we go to [Arizona]. It’s always good to get that real field work. The real game experience so we can be ready September 9.”

Gruden announced that Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine and Jordan Reed won’t play Friday, but several players who had been missing practices returned Wednesday. Running back Byron Marshall, linebacker Zach Brown, tackle T.J. Clemmings, receiver Brian Quick and defensive linemen Matt Ioannidis were the only non-participants. Perine is expected to be ready for the fourth preseason game.

“I think we are just getting healthier, really,” Gruden said. “I think there [have] been some guys with some nagging injuries, not too serious of injuries. They just needed a couple days here and there. I think there are a few other guys who could probably play, that won’t play. Just keep them out because we have a few weeks before our first regular season game.

“So, we’ll be a little bit more careful now than we would be in the regular season, but it is good to see pretty much a full roster out there practicing for the first time in a while.”

Assuming the starters see more time than previously, this will be the most snaps the offense will get with Alex Smith under center after he played just one series in the second preseason game and not at all in the first. Paul Richardson explained that, regardless of playing time, there’s value in the way practices have adjusted since none of the rookies or new players have gone through game-week preparation as a member of the Redskins.

“Guys are finally able to see what it is to go through a game-plan, so to speak,” Richardson said. “We’ve been in camp mode, camp mode, camp mode. Then you get to practice going over a game plan. That addition to this is better, especially for young guys or guys like me who are new to the offense.

“It’s more team-specific. Guys are able to learn how it is adjusting. I think we prepared well, just like prepared well throughout camp and the offseason.”

The biggest story line Friday will be the return of Peterson to an NFL field. The Redskins signed him after injuries to Derrius Guice (torn anterior cruciate ligament), Perine (ankle) and Bryon Marshall (ankle). Gruden said the amount Peterson plays will be affected by the offensive linemen in the game. The coaching staff likely wants to see Peterson, who said he intends to compete for a starting job, behind early-rotation linemen.

“In the first half, I’d like to get him some touches and get a good lather going,” Gruden said. “I think you [can] tell by the whole body of work that he has put on throughout his career. I think the big thing you try to see on the first seven [to] eight carries is getting out of the huddle, having the plays register in his mind, how quickly he can adapt to our audibles and all that goes into an offensive game plan.

“So, trying to give him a feel for the quarterback, snap count, our linemen, our blocking schemes, but as far as viewing him as a player and what he can do, I think the most important thing is just in the system what he can do.”

Fans are eager to see what Peterson still has after two disappointing seasons, but they aren’t the only ones. New teammates have talked in reverence about the 2012 MVP. Gruden and Doug Williams, senior vice president of player personnel, gushed about Peterson’s workout and Josh Norman was thrilled just watching him in practice.

“To see a guy like that, I’ve admired him through the years he’s been playing,” Norman said. “I just call him Mr. All Day. That’s pretty much what it is. All day, he’s bringing it to you full speed. Same energy every time you see him out there touch the rock.

“I’m his biggest fan, secretly rooting him on. And openly. So, it’s just one of those things to see him touch the rock. I’m going to be super excited.”

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