Bill Belichick and the Patriots were intent on finding running back help in the offseason as they moved on from LeGarrette Blount, who eventually settled with the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Though Belichick and his front office eventually settled on deals with Rex Burkhead and restricted free-agent runner Mike Gillislee, they did have another name -- a much bigger name -- on their radar: Adrian Peterson.
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"We brought him in here this spring," Belichick said on a conference call Tuesday. "I've had some interaction with him. I have a lot of respect for him. I have a lot of respect for the way that he plays. I have a lot of respect for how hard he works, how important the game is to him. Those are the things that I admire about Adrian."
The Patriots will now have a chance to see Peterson as an opponent after that meeting, which may have provided a little bit of information in terms of advance scouting. Along with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, Peterson makes up a three-headed attack in the Saints backfield that Belichick believes is one of New Orleans' deeper offensive positions.
"They're all dangerous but they all have their different, I'd say, skill sets," Belichick said. "You see Kamara out of the backfield more than Peterson for example. Again, they're all productive and I'm sure that New Orleans will do a good job of trying to get those guys opportunities in the things that they are good at, things that they do well.
"They're all hard to tackle. Peterson and Ingram have a lot of power, really good balance, good lower body strength. Kamara's got that but maybe not quite as much but very elusive. No question - we're going to have to be alert for all of them and do a good job of handling each guy; the type of plays that might be specific to that player but also the skills that the player has."
Against the Vikings in their season-opener on Monday, Saints backs had trouble getting into gear. Peterson (six carries) and Kamara (seven carries) tied for the team lead in rushing yardage with just 18 yards apiece. Ingram ran for 17 yards on six attempts.
Peterson played just nine snaps (compared to Kamara's 31 and Ingram's 26), and he acknowledged on Twitter after the game that he was suggesting play-calls to coach Sean Payton on the sidelines -- something that probably wouldn't go so well for him in New England, regardless of the respect he's earned from Belichick.
Let's be clear...I said we need to run the ball up their Donkey. Nothing more. I'm passionate but respect my coach at the same time— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) September 12, 2017
"Big, strong runner who does an excellent job of really pressing the line of scrimmage before he gets his cut and gets downhill into the line of scrimmage,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on Tuesday. "A guy like this can take the ball anywhere. He can go inside. He can go outside. He can cut it all the way back. He does a great job in space, does a great job with the stiff-arm, running through arm tackles, and really does a good job of taking minimal opportunities and trying to make them into big plays.”
The big-back role on the Patriots that Peterson was likely in the running for has been filled by Gillislee, who ran for three short-yardage scores in last week's loss to the Chiefs.
Adrian Peterson is getting more attention as he searches for his next team, with the Saints joining the short list of potential destinations.
According to the NFL Network and ESPN, Peterson will visit New Orleans next week, with plans to have dinner Monday and visit the Saints Tuesday.
Peterson visited with the Patriots on Monday but left Foxboro without a contract.
The 32-year-old could serve as a backup to Mark Ingram in New Orleans. Tim Hightower left the Saints this offseason to sign with the 49ers.
In 10 NFL seasons, Peterson has 11,747 rushing yards, which ranks 16th in league history. He was limited to just three games last season due to a torn meniscus and then adductor strain.