The Lions officially signed Peterson on Monday after agreeing to terms with him Sunday — two days after he was released from Washington in favor of a group of younger running backs. Patricia said the Lions reached out to Peterson after his release, had a phone call and realized there was mutual interest.
“We’re fortunate to bring him on board,” Patricia said. “It’s early. I have a lot of respect for Adrian Peterson. I’ve played against him for a long time. He’s just a phenomenal player.”
Patricia said Peterson’s connection with Detroit offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was Peterson’s coordinator the first four years of his career in Minnesota, helped make the signing happen. He also thinks Peterson’s familiarity with Bevell’s offense could allow the 35-year-old to transition into the offense quickly.
Peterson rushed for at least 1,298 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his four seasons playing under Bevell, including a league-best 1,760 yards in 2008. He also had an NFL-record 296-yard rushing game for the Vikings on Nov. 4, 2007, in Bevell’s offense.
“So that’s always a good draw, when you have that sort of production in a particular offensive scheme,” Patricia said. “Also, being familiar with the type of offense that we run, him being able to come in without a training camp and step right in and hopefully try to contribute is, I think, a big factor that I think gave us a little bit of an advantage.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford saw Peterson from the sideline the first seven years of his Lions career when Peterson was with Minnesota.
“I’m glad to see him in our uniform. Saw him for too many years in the purple and gold and he was doing his thing against us,” Stafford said. “So nice to have him. 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.”
The quarterback, at some point Sunday, will likely end up having been in huddles during his career with the single-season receiving yards record holder, Calvin Johnson, and the single-game rushing yards record holder, Peterson.
“I’ll probably think about that when I’m done playing,” Stafford said. “At the moment, I’m just going to enjoy watching him run it when he gets it.”
Patricia said Peterson’s signing was independent of the injury issues Detroit has at running back. To make room for Peterson, the Lions placed running back Bo Scarbrough on injured reserve. Rookie D’Andre Swift was injured for the majority of training camp and Bevell said that could limit him at the beginning of the season, saying every day he missed was a day “we’re not comfortable.” Kerryon Johnson, the expected starter at running back, has missed at least six games in each of his two NFL seasons.
Peterson, meanwhile, has been largely healthy the past few seasons, missing one game in the past two years. Patricia, though, wouldn’t give an indication of what they expect out of the four-time All-Pro, who is 1,053 yards behind former Lions legend Barry Sanders for fourth place on the all-time NFL rushing list.
Last year, Peterson rushed for 898 yards and five touchdowns for Washington.
“We’re just excited about it but we’ve got a long way to go. He just got here,” Patricia said. “He’s got a lot to learn and I know he’s going to do everything possible to put everything into it and we’ll just take it from there.”
Lions center Frank Ragnow, a Minnesota native, couldn’t help his excitement about meeting Peterson, whose jersey he believed he owned as a kid growing up. He asked his mom, Marty, to search for it in their home once he found out Peterson would be coming to Detroit and said it is going to be “wild” to block for him.
“I was literally asking the O-Line room the past day how I should introduce myself because I was freaking out so much,” Ragnow said.
Ragnow said his family and friends in Minnesota have been “freaking out” about blocking for him. It wasn’t at the level when Ragnow was drafted by the Lions in the first round in 2018, but Ragnow said he was active enough about it to text some of his friends saying “I’m going to be blocking for Adrian Peterson.”
As for how he introduced himself, Ragnow settled on “Hey, I’m Frank.”
“Kept it cool,” Ragnow said. “Not, ‘Hey, I’m Frank, I’m from Minnesota, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.’ I was trying to keep it cool.”