TEMPE — Adrian Peterson has joined a team with the worst running game in the NFL, a situation he’s certain he still has the ability to change.
“I have so much left,” the 32-year-old running back told reporters Wednesday after going through his first practice with the Arizona Cardinals. “I’d love to play at least four or five more years, God willing. I have a lot left in the tank. So stay tuned, you guys will be able to see that firsthand.”
The Cardinals acquired Peterson from the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick.
Peterson was not critical of his brief time with the Saints, even though he found himself relegated to third-string running back.
“I wasn’t pushing to be moved,” he said, “but I’d be lying to you to say that I didn’t want a change of scenery after four weeks seeing how things played out.”
And his reaction when he found out about the trade?
“It’s like, ‘Thank you Jesus,’” Peterson said.
Peterson played 10 seasons in Minnesota, a powerful, dominant running back whom few could take down without considerable help.
He signed a two-year contract with the Saints this offseason but was languishing on the sidelines there.
Peterson’s numbers weren’t impressive with the Saints — 81 yards in 27 carries — but Arizona coach Bruce Arians said he liked what he saw.
“A violent runner who still has it,” Arians said. “He’s not 22 anymore but he still pours it up in there and is very exciting.”
Peterson was welcomed with open arms by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a good friend whom the running back described as “like family.”
Peterson said Fitzgerald insisted he stay in his guest house.
“I’ve been knowing Larry for a long time,” Peterson said, “and I’ve never heard the excitement in his voice that I heard when he called. He knows what I’ve been going through and he was just excited for me.”
Arians said Peterson will play Sunday when the Cardinals are home against Tampa Bay.
The Cardinals are averaging a league-worst 51.8 yards per game on the ground.
“That’s the only thing I’m coming in here thinking about,” Peterson said, “is changing that so we can present to a defense a more balanced offense, an offense that can run the ball and pass the ball as well.”
He knows he won’t be playing behind the greatest offensive line.
“This is not my first rodeo,” Peterson said. “I’ve been in situations where I didn’t have the best offensive line in front of me and was able to be productive and accomplish some great things as a team and individually as well.”
The line could get some help this week with the possible return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone from injuries. Boone was a teammate of Peterson’s last season in Minnesota.
Peterson is a four-time first-team All-Pro and was a Pro Bowl selection seven times. He was The Associated Press most valuable player in 2012 when he rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns, the only non-quarterback to win the award in the last decade.
And he is grateful to be a featured back again.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It shows that you’re appreciated and that someone in the organization believes in you, in what you’re able to do. Not to say that wasn’t necessarily the case in New Orleans because me and (coach Sean) Payton, we talked. The four weeks I was there, on Tuesdays we were having a conversation. It was unfortunate when you have three backs in that system.”
Arians said Peterson will play on first and second downs, with Andre Ellington taking over on third downs.
Peterson will not wear his customary No. 28. That number is taken by Arizona cornerback Justin Bethel, who didn’t give it up.
“We had a conversation. It didn’t last long,” Peterson said. “... I’ll be wearing a different number.”
Peterson will wear No. 23, the same as Chris Johnson, the running back released when the trade came down.
Peterson arrives in Arizona some 10 years late. Arizona could have drafted him with the No. 5 pick in 2007 but chose tackle Levi Brown instead.
“I’m sure if they could flash back, they probably would have did things differently,” Peterson said. “I’m here now. Things have come full circle and I’m going to make the most of my opportunity.”