Attempting to beef up an injury-riddled backfield that on Monday was held to its fewest rushing yards of the season, the Seahawks on Wednesday signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson to their practice squad.
“Excited to see if he can help us out and give us a little something,” coach Pete Carroll said of Peterson, who turned 36 in March and is the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history with 14,902 yards.
Carroll noted that he tried to recruit Peterson to USC before Peterson signed with Oklahoma, where he played from 2004-06. (Carroll’s USC team beat the Sooners in the Orange Bowl following the 2004 season to win the national title.)
“It’s a player that I’ve known forever way back to his high-school days (in Palestine, Texas) and I’ve admired him tremendously over the years,” Carroll said. “Always disappointed we didn’t get him back in the day. But like I just told him, we finally got him. So I’m looking forward to see how he does and see what he can fit in. He’s an incredible competitor and a great guy, and so I’m anxious to get him a chance to get on the field with our boys.”
Peterson gained 11,747 yards during 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he last played in 2016.
He has since bounced around the NFL, playing with Arizona, New Orleans, Detroit, Washington and Tennessee.
Peterson played in three games for the Titans this season after Tennessee lost Derrick Henry to injury. He gained 82 yards on 27 carries in three games before being waived Nov. 23. He gained 40 yards on nine carries in a loss to the Saints on Nov. 21.
Seattle lost starter Chris Carson for the season because of a neck injury and on Monday played without Rashaad Penny (hamstring) and Travis Homer (calf), leaving the team with just two healthy running backs from the 53-man roster — Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas. Collins, though, has also been dealing with an abdomen injury that had him listed as limited in practice Wednesday.
Seattle also has undrafted rookie Josh Johnson on the practice squad, and he was elevated for Monday’s game but played only on special teams. He can be elevated only one more time before he would have to go on the 53-man roster.
Carroll said Penny has a chance to play Sunday against the 49ers and will not go on injured reserve, but he added that it’s unclear if Homer can play, though Homer was listed as a full participant in practice Wednesday.
“We’re going to see how he works this week, see if he can get back in action,” Carroll said of Penny, the team’s 2018 first-round draft pick who has played just four games with 46 snaps this season, gaining 43 yards on 17 carries and was listed as limited in practice Wednesday.
Those injuries could leave Seattle with a running back trio for Sunday’s game of Collins, Dallas and Peterson, assuming Collins can go.
Collins and Dallas gained a combined 18 yards on 10 carries (with 14 on seven coming from Collins) as Seattle had a season-low 34 rushing yards in a 17-15 loss to Washington. The Seahawks have not rushed for more than 90 yards in any of their past five games and have just one game of over 100 yards in their past seven. They topped the century mark in three of Carson’s four games.
By signing Peterson to the practice squad he can be elevated for each of the next two games before he would have to go on the 53-man roster.
Peterson’s production has declined the past few years, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry this season and 3.9 last year with Detroit. His career average of 4.6 ranks tied for 32nd all-time in NFL history and is the seventh-best of any active player.
Carroll, though, said he thinks Peterson has something left, adding, “I’ve watched the film and seen him play. He plays just as aggressive and tough as he ever has.”
Still, some might wonder why Seattle would sign a veteran as opposed to going with Johnson, who led the Seahawks in rushing in the preseason with 74 yards on 23 carries.
Though Seattle is mired in the basement of the NFC West at 3-8 and has a roughly 1% chance to make the playoffs, via FiveThirtyEight.com, Carroll said bringing in Peterson is about doing what is best for the team in attempting to beat the 49ers.
“We’re trying to get ready to win this football game,” Carroll said. “So I’m going to see if he has got something to offer us. Just in his presence, in his toughness he brings something in. So let’s see what happens. We’re just trying to get the right mix.”
The Seahawks appeared to make a statement about their philosophy for the rest of the season in a tweet announcing Peterson’s signing that read, “We’re going to continue to compete. All Day.” The latter sentence is a reference to Peterson’s nickname, which he has said he got from his father when he was 7 years old because he could “go all day.”
Peterson will fill the one remaining opening on Seattle’s 17-man practice squad. Seattle filled two others Wednesday by re-signing receiver Cade Johnson, an undrafted rookie free agent who was on the practice squad all year until being released last week, and defensive back Elijah Benton. Benton played in one game last year with Cleveland.