It was August of 2018, and Adrian Peterson was out of work. The veteran running back was coming off an underwhelming season that began in New Orleans and ended in Arizona, but he wanted to keep playing. Even after 11 NFL seasons, he knew he could still perform at a high level. He just needed another chance.
That opportunity came with the Washington Redskins, who were scrambling for another running back after presumed starter Derrius Guice tore his ACL in the first preseason game. The Redskins signed Peterson on Aug. 20, and about three weeks later he exploded for 166 total yards in a win over the Cardinals in the regular season opener.
That game kick-started what has been a mutually beneficial relationship between Peterson and the Redskins over the past two seasons. He's started all but one game during that stretch, rushing for 1,940 yards on 462 attempts -- good for 4.2 yards per carry -- and scoring 12 touchdowns.
He's been reliable and professional, a formidable lead back and an invaluable mentor who, even in his mid-30s, just keeps producing.
"I'm going to keep going," Peterson told reporters towards the end of this season. "My body is feeling good. I'm still loving the game. Obviously I can still play and perform at a high level. Why walk away from it now? So, I'm going to keep going."
Statistically speaking, Peterson turned in a historic 2018 campaign. After replacing Guice as the workhorse in the backfield, Peterson carried the ball more than he had since 2015 and racked up 1,042 yards to go along with seven rushing touchdowns. In doing so, he became the oldest 1,000-yard rusher since the 1980s, when former Redskins great John Riggins accomplished the feat in 1984.
But in talking with Redskins.com back in March, shortly after re-signing a multi-year deal with the team, Peterson downplayed those gaudy totals.
"I feel like [that] was just a decent season, like for me in my mind," Peterson said. "People were like, 'Wow, you did incredible, you had 1,000 yards.' And I'm like, 'Man, I should have had 15, 1,600 yards.'"
That's sort of how Peterson felt following the 2019 campaign, which was defined by record-breaking moments. By rushing for 898 yards over the course of 15 games, he passed Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis, LaDainian Tomlinson and Curtis Martin for fifth on the NFL's all-time rushing list (14,216). By rushing for five touchdowns, he passed Jim Brown and Walter Payton for fourth on the league all-time rushing touchdowns list (111).
Even though Peterson was inactive Week 1 and split carries with Guice during four other games, he was disappointed he did not surpass 1,000 yards rushing for the ninth time in his 13-year career.
"Personally, I feel like it was a decent season," Peterson said. "Personally, I would've wished to accomplish a lot more, but it was a rocky season. I think it shows the grit of our team, us as individuals just to continue to push through the season, just continue to fight and that's what I've always been about: making the best of whatever circumstance or situation you're in and just making the best of it. I feel like, personally, that's what I did."
A lot will have changed when Peterson returns to the field. New head coach Ron Rivera will lead the Redskins into a new era, while first-year offensive coordinator Scott Turner will oversee Peterson's side of the ball. Guice will also be back, as will 2019 fourth-round running back Bryce Love, who missed his entire rookie campaign with a knee injury.
Despite these variables, Peterson fully expects to be back and better than ever with the Redskins in 2020.
"Individually, when you look at yourself, no one knows you like you," Peterson said during locker room cleanout on Dec. 30. "For me, it was just a good eye-opener for me to go into this offseason and come back and have the best season of my career. I know that might sound crazy to some people, but if you were in my shoes, you would definitely understand where I'm coming from."