EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – James Bettcher was in the last of his three seasons as the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator when Adrian Peterson was traded to the team on Oct. 10, 2017. The star running back arrived with 11,828 rushing yards, seven Pro Bowl selections, four first-team All Pro designations, the 2012 NFL MVP Award – and a surprising request.
"I remember when he first got with us, he walks over to me and he said, 'Hey J.B., do you mind if I take some scout team running back reps?'" Bettcher said this week. "I looked at him and I said, 'Are you crazy? Trying to get me fired?' I said, 'You have to talk to B.A. (then head coach Bruce Arians) about that.' He walks over to B.A. and the next thing you know, he's the running back in the backfield.
"He just loves to play. He felt like he needed some more snaps. He felt like he needed to get the ball in his hands and work his eyes some more, make some cuts. It wasn't anything about wanting to do something against the defense. It was just he wanted to get better. That wasn't too long ago, and he's played for a long time at a really high level. He's special."
Peterson is now a 34-year-old, 13-season veteran but he's still posting big numbers. This season, his second with the Washington Redskins, he has rushed for 784 yards and four touchdowns. Peterson has scored in each of the last three games. Last week in Philadelphia, he ran for 66 yards to move into fifth place on the NFL's career list with 14,102.
The Giants will have to contend with him tomorrow when they face the Redskins in FedExField.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator when Peterson concluded his 10-year stint with the team in 2016. A knee injury limited Peterson to three games that season, but Shurmur was impressed with his work ethic and ability – and has noticed no decline in his skills this year.
"(He is) running as hard and as physical and as nasty as he's ever run," Shurmur said.
"He's a warrior of a runner," Bettcher said. "He's a physical guy who can put his foot in the ground and jump to the edge. He still has his explosiveness. He's a good player, a really good player. Special, as we know."
Peterson rushed for just 28 yards on 11 carries when the Giants defeated Washington, 24-3, on Sept. 29. But two weeks later, he had season-highs of 23 carries and 118 yards in the Redskins' first victory of the season, in Miami. And on Oct. 28 last year, Peterson ran for 149 yards and scored on a 64-yard run and seven-yard reception when the Redskins beat the Giants in MetLife Stadium.
That afternoon 14 months ago, Peterson out-rushed Saquon Barkley by 111 yards. But in the rematch five weeks later, Barkley ran for a career-high 170 yards, including a 78-yard score, and Peterson was held to 16 yards on 10 carries.
The two running backs, one seemingly in the twilight of his career and the other in his infancy, admire each other. Peterson sought out Barkley and spoke to him on the field following that first game last year and told the young back, "I love what you're doing…the sky's the limit."
"He's a monster," Barkley said this week of Peterson. "A.P., he's one of the best running backs to ever do it. I know he just tied Walter Payton's touchdown record (Peterson and the Hall of Famer each have 110, the fourth-highest total in history). Hopefully, he doesn't break it (tomorrow). But I've been a big fan of him, got to talk to him multiple times. He always gives me great words of encouragement, but just a big fan. I love watching his game and it's amazing to see what he's able to do at this age."
Barkley was asked what most impressed him about Peterson's game. In answering, he proved that he is closely monitoring the future Hall of Famer's season.
"When you look at his stats, he's got like 180 carries for like 700 and something yards (183 attempts for 784 yards)," Barkley said. "His longest run is 29 yards (correct). Back in the day, A.P. was breaking for 80, 70, this, that and the third. Even last year, he had some of those. So, you can see that it just shows that he's just being real productive. Very productive. Taking what the defense gives him, you still see him run through arm tackles, run through tackles, run a physical game downhill. That's the most impressive game. There is going to be some point with all of us, where myself, where Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott), where Todd (Gurley), where Christian (McCaffrey), we might not have those years or those seasons where we're breaking 80-yard touchdown runs or 70-yard catch and runs. But you still do it and you still can be able to be productive in a type of manner o,r I guess you could say, type of game I had last week (112 yards on 24 carries, none longer than 12 yards)."
Peterson is 12 years older than Barkley. They each play with a first-round rookie quarterback, Dwayne Haskins for Washington and Daniel Jones for the Giants. But each team would be very happy to ride their marquee running back to victory tomorrow.
*The Jones-Haskins quarterback matchup is just the second this season of two 2019 draft choices. The first occurred on Oct. 20, when Jones and Arizona's Kyler Murray, the first overall selection, squared off.
*A Giants victory would give them a season sweep of the Redskins for the first time since 2014. They are 101-68-4 all-time vs. Washington and are the only franchise with at least 100 victories against another franchise.
*The Giants are 12-9-1 in FedExField since it opened in 1997.
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