RENTON — When the Seahawks signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday, longtime fans couldn’t help but quickly recall the names of Franco Harris and Edgerrin James.
Harris and James are each Hall of Fame running backs who joined the Seahawks at the end of their careers — the only running backs so far to have made the Hall of Fame and played for Seattle.
Whenever Peterson retires, he will join them when he is first eligible, five years later.
But first, the Seahawks hope they can get a bit more out of Peterson than Harris and James, who each did little but add a few more yards to their already gaudy career totals before being released.
After spending 12 years with the Steelers, the then-34-year-old Harris played eight games in Seattle in 1984 gaining 170 yards on 68 carries before being released, giving him 12,120 career rushing yards, just shy of the then-NFL record of Jim Brown with 12,312, a total Harris wanted to reach.
James, elected to the Hall last year, played seven games for the Seahawks in 2009 following 10 years with the Colts (seven) and Cardinals (three), gaining 125 yards on 46 carries before being released at the age of 31.
Neither Harris nor James played again.
Peterson is 36 and, like Harris, is being turned to in part out of necessity. Harris was signed after Curt Warner suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week One.
The Seahawks learned two weeks ago that Chris Carson will not play again this season and backup running backs Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer are nursing injuries that held them out last week. Alex Collins, who ascended to the starting job with Carson out, is also dealing with a nagging abdomen injury.
Peterson, wearing No. 21, went through his first Seahawks practice Thursday afternoon, about an hour or so after he met the media and insisted that he still has something left, despite having been released by the Titans last week after gaining 82 yards on 27 carries — 3.0 per attempt for a player who has a career average of 4.6.
“I feel like I can still compete at a high level,” Peterson said (and as if to prove a point, he exited his press conference by jumping off the couple-foot stage instead of taking the steps).
He was released by Tennessee on Nov. 23 after signing in the wake of a significant injury to Derrick Henry.
Peterson said he felt he was just beginning to find his stride with the Titans.
“I don’t really feel like I showed too much in Tennessee,” Peterson said. “But before I got released, I was feeling like my legs were back under me. I felt like going to the Patriots week, that was the week I was going to blossom. Unfortunately, I got released. I feel like there’s a lot I can add to the run game and inspire these young guys as well. Make those guys work harder when they see me out there pretty much going full speed during a walkthrough 14 years in.”
While there hasn’t been much of anything good to see out of the Seahawks’ offense of late, Peterson says it may suit him better than did in Tennessee.
“I feel like I’ll be able to flow with this style of offense and how their run game is. It kind of fits my style a little more than I would say Tennessee,” Peterson said. “I think it will be an easy adjustment for me.”
That’s the hope, anyway.
Some may wonder why the Seahawks are turning to a 36-year-old running back at this point, with a 3-8 record and little realistic playoff hopes.
But coach Pete Carroll sees it as proof the team isn’t wavering from its “Always Compete” motto, saying Wednesday “we’re trying to get ready to win this football game (Sunday against the 49ers). So, I’m going to see if Adrian’s got something to offer us.”
Peterson said his goal is to play this week, and that’s obviously the Seahawks’ hope, as well.
Peterson said he got a call from his agent Saturday as he was getting out of his car to tailgate at the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game in Stillwater.
“He was like, ‘Seattle called. I think they’re interested. How do you feel about it?’” Peterson said. “I was like, ‘I’ll be good to go.’”
Peterson mentioned winning a championship as a reason to keep playing. That won’t likely happen this year in Seattle.
He also isn’t really playing for the money — he gets $14,000 for each week he’s on the practice squad. And if he’s elevated to the active roster for gameday, as expected, he’ll get a one-game prorated share of the veteran minimum of $1.075 million (he can be elevated twice before he’d have to be signed to the 53-man roster).
But what Peterson can do is continue to burnish his Hall of Fame resume.
Peterson needs one more TD to tie Brown for 10th all-time in NFL history with 126. And with 14,902 rushing yards he is 367 behind Barry Sanders for fourth in NFL history.
There’s also continuing to distance himself from being suspended for all but one game in 2014 under the NFL’s personal-conduct policy after he was charged, pleading guilty to misdemeanor reckless assault on what NFL.com at the time wrote “the league called ‘an incident of abusive discipline’ toward his 4-year-old son.”
Peterson was reinstated the following year to continue his career with the Vikings, and has played for five other teams since becoming a free agent following the 2016 season. Peterson took a free-agent visit in 2017 two days before the Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy.
He also finally gets to play for Carroll, who recruited him out of Palestine, Texas, before Peterson signed with Oklahoma in 2004. Peterson recalled Carroll visiting him at his high school and first seeing Carroll shooting hoops on the school’s basketball court.
“It came down between Oklahoma and USC,” he said. “Oklahoma just had a little more perks when it came to like being closer to home, my daughter, being close to Dallas. I had a lot of family there. If Oklahoma was on the East Coast, yeah, I think I would’ve been a Trojan.”
Now the two are finally together, each hoping the other can help him turn back time, even if just for a month or so.