For the first time in his NFL career on Sunday, Adrian Peterson missed a game despite being healthy and on the 53-man roster.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden explained that he made the decision to bench Peterson against the Eagles based on special teams play. A 13-year veteran with his name all over the NFL record books, Peterson doesn’t play special teams, and Gruden wanted somebody that could.
“That was a tough deal for him I’m sure, and for me as well, and for this football team. He’s a good football player still without a doubt,” Gruden said of the decision to bench Peterson. “But on game day, we’re punting to Darren Sproles about five or six times. We need as many guys in cover.”
To Peterson’s teammates, the decision didn’t make sense.
“Any time you've got a Hall of Fame guy that doesn't dress, it's a slap in the face," Redskins tackle Morgan Moses said Monday morning on The Sports Junkies.
“You don't put a Hall of Fame guy like that on the sideline.”
For most of the NFL world, Gruden’s decision to bench Peterson came as a shock. It didn’t help that the Redskins run game against the Eagles was almost nonexistent.
Running backs Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson combined for 13 carries and less than 30 yards in the ground. After a 1,000-yard season in 2018 for the Burgundy and Gold, Peterson might have helped get the ground game going in Philadelphia.
“[Peterson] brings a lot to the game, I think he brings a lot to our team, but to have that guy to just stand on the sidelines it doesn’t sit well with guys on the team or the NFL,” Moses said. “I think that’s saying something that we need to correct them because he’s a hell of a football player.”
What happens next in this situation will be interesting to watch. Moses told The Junkies he intends to speak with the coaching staff about getting Peterson back on the field and that he “would be very surprised” if the running back remains inactive next week against Dallas.
Asked pregame about Peterson being inactive on Sunday, one veteran Redskins player simply said: “I don’t get it.”
If Gruden wants a running back that can play special teams, and Guice and Thompson stay healthy, it’s entirely possible that Peterson continues to be inactive on game day.
If that keeps happening, trouble could be on the horizon. Players didn’t like it in Week 1, and that seems unlikely to change.
Peterson could ask for a trade to a team that needs a running back, and frankly, it would be a reasonable request.
Going one step further - how much must holdout left tackle Trent Williams like the Redskins behavior towards Peterson? The two are friends and train together in the offseason.
Gruden’s decision to bench Peterson might have been about special teams, but the ramifications of that decision will loom much larger.
This is just the beginning.
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