He kept swiping away the thought that no NFL team might call again. That his career might be over after 14 seasons, 14,820 yards rushing, seven Pro Bowl berths and the MVP award in 2012.
Then the Tennessee Titans called. Not only an NFL team, but a franchise currently sitting atop the AFC with a big lead in its division. A big change from his last two teams.
“It's wonderful,” Peterson said Friday.
Starting the clock on a likely Pro Football Hall of Fame nod will have to wait.
The Titans (6-2) need help replacing NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry after the two-time rushing champ had foot surgery Tuesday. They signed Peterson on Tuesday to the practice squad and promoted him to the 53-man roster Friday. His 15th season will start Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Rams (7-1).
“Yes, it’s been a while huh?" Peterson said. "About 10 months. But I feel good, so they call my number I’ll go out there and contribute any way that I can. I do a great job of keeping my body in shape physically and mentally and just keeping myself prepared for a moment like this.”
Peterson may not have been with a team since his lone season in Detroit ended. But he's been working out in Texas, especially on a track to keep his legs and lungs ready to run.
He joined a team that's banged-up and in need of slower practices. Peterson hit the field going fast with his fresh legs. Another reason Peterson is so excited? The Titans' offense runs the kind of inside and outside zone plays that fit him perfectly.
“You think of the ideal situation for a running back like me and my style, it would be this right here,” Peterson said. "So I’m just going to live in the moment and enjoy it and do whatever they asked me to do.”
The Titans are Peterson's sixth NFL team. Minnesota drafted him seventh out of Oklahoma in 2007, and he played 10 seasons for the Vikings. He split the 2017 season between New Orleans and Arizona. Peterson played for Washington in 2018 and 2019 before spending last season with Detroit.
Peterson won’t be wearing the No. 28 that he wore with Minnesota, New Orleans and Detroit. That number currently belongs to Titans running back Jeremy McNichols.
When Peterson has debuted with a new NFL team, he has made quite an impression. He has run for at least 100 yards twice and topped 100 yards from scrimmage four times. That includes last season when he ran for 93 yards and had 21 yards receiving in the Lions' season opener against Chicago.
This is the second time the Titans have added a player with a Hall of Fame resume. In 2010, the Titans started 5-3 when they were the only team to put a claim in for wide receiver Randy Moss. The Titans lost seven of eight with Moss and finished 6-10 in coach Jeff Fisher's final season with the franchise.
Who starts against the Rams remains to be seen. McNichols, a fifth-round pick out of Boise State in 2017 by Tampa Bay, has never started an NFL game and has carried only seven times for 38 yards this season. He's been a third-down specialist, excelling on screens with 21 catches for 203 yards this season.
Peterson said he saw Henry as the front-runner for MVP, so replacing him means a group effort.
“I want to do whatever I can do to help this team continue to be successful," Peterson said.
NOTES: The Titans will be without RG Nate Davis (concussion). He was ruled out along with LB Rashaan Davis (ankle) and FB Khari Blasingame (knee). CB Greg Mabin (ankle) was ruled out, then placed on injured reserve Friday. ... WR A.J. Brown (knee) and LT Taylor Lewan (knee) are questionable after not practicing Friday. ... OLB Harold Landry, who has a team-high 8 1/2 sacks, was limited all week in practice.
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