Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden addressed his players for what could be the final time following Sunday’s 24-0 season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but he wasn’t the only one with an uncertain future inside a sullen locker room. After Gruden was done, running back Adrian Peterson spoke to his teammates as if he had been a fixture within the franchise for years, telling them not to take anything for granted and to target their weaknesses during what promises to be a long and dark offseason.
“Just letting those guys know that going into the offseason, to have your mind focused,” said the 33-year-old Peterson, speaking as if he’ll be back in Washington for his 13th season after he unexpectedly provided the downtrodden Redskins with one of their few consistent bright spots in 2018.
“Hopefully I’m back here … I want to be a part of what I see we could be as a team and as an organization. I definitely want to be a part of it,” Peterson said. “That’s what I’m going to continue to keep my mind on.”
Peterson finished with 1,042 yards on 247 rushing attempts and scored seven touchdowns while playing in all 16 games , but a campaign that underscored his longevity and durability couldn’t have ended in an uglier fashion. He managed zero yards on Sunday, carrying the ball just four times and sitting out most of the second half as Washington’s offense was once again rendered one-dimensional. Peterson had been limited by a lingering shoulder injury during practice earlier in the week, but on a roster dotted with major injuries, he showed he still had plenty in the tank late in the season — including a 119-yard performance at Tennessee in Week 15.
Peterson’s potential role in 2019 is one of the many pressing questions for Washington, which was forced to turn to the veteran running back after prized rookie Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending torn ACL in August’s preseason opener. Peterson responded by silencing doubters throughout the season, with one of his more brilliant moments coming against these Eagles just three weeks earlier, when he ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run in a Monday night loss.
All of that was an afterthought with Peterson bottled up on Sunday. Washington quickly abandoned the run as Philadelphia built a big lead. Of the Redskins’ 89 total yards, only 21 came on the ground, providing a glimpse at how far their running game had fallen after such a productive stretch earlier in the season.
“I want AP back. I’ve enjoyed having him around every single day. A guy to be doing what he’s done at that age, we see his work ethic every single day,” running back Chris Thompson said. “I really don’t control those decisions, because we do have Guice coming back from his injury as well. So we just have to wait and see. I would love to have him, until he desires he can’t play anymore.”
Peterson desires to play more in 2019, and said he would be back working out in the coming weeks to prepare. He certainly is still respected by his contemporaries. After Sunday’s game, a group of Eagles surrounded him and waited to shake his hand. And after he entered the locker room for one final time, he had no problem addressing a group of teammates he plans to play with again next season.
“If you have a mentality that you’re working to be a champion, I just wanted to relay to them that that’s the mind-set I’ve always played with and approached. the game with,” Peterson said. “I was able to show that throughout the year, with how I played.”
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