Adrian Peterson is officially a free agent again, and he had no clue it would happen. The Washington Football Team notified the future Hall of Fame running back on Thursday afternoon of its decision to release him in favor of the younger guys at the position, sending the 35-year-old to the open market less than a week ahead of the 2020 regular season kickoff. Peterson did good things in his time in Washington, including leading the team with 898 rushing yards plus five touchdowns, making for a two-year tally in Washington of 1,940 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. Still, he’s now gone, and not long ahead of starting another contract year with the club.

“It caught me by surprise,” Peterson told Josina Anderson of ESPN. “I was having a strong camp. It was showing up on film, taking #1 reps all the way to this week. I just got notified by the running backs coach yesterday that they want to give these young guys some reps, but I didn’t know I was going to get cut. There was no indication. 

“Today [Ron] Rivera just said this is always tough, but yes we’re gonna release you and go with this offensive style.”

That style, according to Peterson, will feature a lot of rookie running back Antonio Gibson.

“I respect coach,” the seven-time All-Pro said. “Look, Gibson is a hell of a talent. … This system really fits him. I feel like I can do that pony style too, more as a receiving back. 

“We were all working on it, but they really want one main guy to do it and they drafted Gibson for it.”

This is something that will pique the interest of fantasy football aficionados everywhere as it pertains to Gibson, whom Washington drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The decision to do so not only proved fortuitous due to the eventual release of Derrius Guice, but seemingly does coronate him as Peterson’s successor — something the club has been searching for the past two seasons. CBS Sports fantasy senior editor Chris Towers isn’t crowning Gibson as the bell cow just yet though, given the still crowded backfield, but does see the potential for a big first year from the rookie.

“Suddenly, Washington’s backfield is a lot less crowded with Peterson’s release, though how, exactly, this figures to play out remains to be seen,” Towers said. “We know Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic will be used in the passing game, while Peyton Barber and Bryce Love work in the early down role. The questions are whether Gibson is ready to take on at least some of the early-down work as well, or whether Love is going to be the starter. 

“In either case, there’s significant breakout potential, making both solid mid-round upside picks.

As for Peterson, the journey to chase down both a Super Bowl ring and Emmitt Smith’s rushing crown continues, with the latter going from improbable to much more so this week. Having stated this offseason a desire to play upwards of another four years, Peterson will almost certainly look to land with another club — this time a contender so he’ll at least have a fighter’s chance of achieving one of his two remaining NFL goals.

“Trust me — I still have a lot in me,” Peterson told ESPN. “More to strive for  do again. … Even when there’s doubt. I feel strong and I can build on that as the season wears on. I’ll do it again.”

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