Adrian Peterson should see significant playing time when the Detroit Lions open the season Sunday against the Chicago Bears, even if Lions coach Matt Patricia is playing coy about his role.
“We’ll see,” Patricia said Monday when asked how big a part of the game plan Peterson will be in Week 1. “It’s Monday and he just got here, so we’ll see how everything goes.”
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The Lions told Peterson during the courting process over the weekend that he could be their Week 1 starter.
Whether that turns out to be true or not might depends on how quickly he gets up to speed in an offense he has some familiarity with from early in his career.
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Peterson spent his first NFL four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings playing for current Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. He averaged 1,446 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns during those seasons, and even if he’s not the same back now, he’ll at minimum be a part of what the Lions expect to be a backfield by committee this fall.
Rookie D’Andre Swift missed more than a week this spring with a leg injury, and the Lions remain concerned about Kerryon Johnson’s workload given his past knee issues.
The team also has Ty Johnson on its 53-man roster, and placed Bo Scarbrough on injured reserve Monday.
“I think (our expectations for him are) nothing more than what we expect out of everybody,” Patricia said. “Go out there and compete and work hard and try to do everything he can to contribute to the team and help the team win whenever that’s ready. Whenever that is ready to take place. So, from that standpoint, everybody that we put on the field in positions to go give us a chance to win, that’s really what we expect.”
Patricia declined Monday to provide an update on the health of Swift and Kerryon Johnson, saying he’d rather wait until the first injury report of the season is due after practice Wednesday.
He also insisted Peterson’s signing — Peterson was released by Washington on Friday, and by Sunday morning was on a plane to Detroit — had nothing to do with the health of the team’s other running backs.
“I think really with Adrian Peterson, it was kind of independent of everything else that was going on,” Patricia said. “Just having an opportunity to just even talk to him on the phone was great as we pushed and then figured out that it would be something that we wanted to pursue and there was mutual interest. It was kind of an independent, I would say, situation.”
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The Lions finished 21st in the league in rushing last year and planned to lean heavily on Swift and Kerryon Johnson before the coronavirus pandemic eliminated the entire offseason and injuries raised concerns about how much both players would be able to contribute early in the season.
Peterson ranks fifth all-time on the NFL’s career rushing list and led Washington in rushing each of the last two seasons. He followed up his eighth career 1,000-yard rushing season in 2018 with 898 yards and five touchdowns last year, when he averaged a healthy 4.3 yards per carry.
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“Glad to see him in our uniform,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Saw him too many years in the purple and gold (with the Vikings) and he was doing his thing against us. So nice to have him.
“Obviously, a really talented player, one of the greats at the position. I think he raises the bar for a lot of people. Just to go out there and watch the way this guy works at the age that he is and what he’s already accomplished, pretty impressive. We’re excited to have him. Any time you add talented guys to your team it’s going to help us give us a better chance to win games. I know he’s excited to be here and we’re excited to have him.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content.