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Adrian Peterson: Interest in Detroit Lions rooted in history with Darrell Bevell

It was a reunion that enticed Adrian Peterson the most.

A free agent last weekend after being cut by Washington, the league's No. 5 all-time leading rusher had two or three teams interested in him. Familiarity with one of them -- and specifically offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- led him to choosing to sign with the Detroit Lions.

There were other factors, too, including a return to the NFC North and getting to play with Matthew Stafford and other offensive options, but for him, the main thing was the guy who would be calling the plays.

"Just having that history with him and having that opportunity to talk to him a little bit," Peterson said. "I felt it was a great opportunity for me to come in and help contribute to this team and their effort to be more successful than they were last year."

It isn't exactly the same between Bevell and Peterson, who worked together from 2007-2010 in Minnesota, where Peterson rushed for at least 1,298 yards and 10 touchdowns each of those four seasons.

Bevell also was Peterson's offensive coordinator when he set an NFL record with 296 rushing yards on Nov. 4, 2007. By the end of that game, Bevell said, he was calling the same three-to-five plays over and over.

Peterson said the playbook he's looking at with Detroit has advanced 80 to 85 percent from the time he was last with Bevell, but some terminology is the same, which has helped him as he has started to pick up the offense.

"It's definitely more advanced," Peterson said. "More diverse."

Peterson, 35, said he wasn't sure of his role in Bevell's offense this weekend, although Bevell said Tuesday "there will be plenty of carries to go around" between Peterson and Kerryon Johnson, the Lions' starter the past two seasons who is expected to share early-down work with Peterson.

Peterson brushed off suggestions he would be the starter against the Bears, saying he hadn't heard that and he has been focused on learning plays. Even though he's a vet with a Hall of Fame resume, it's still learning a new offense in a week.

When he signed with Detroit, it wasn't with the expectation he'd be sitting on Sunday.

"They are asking me to do a lot, you know," Peterson said. "I don't think we have really locked in exactly, what the obvious thing is what I've done for 14 years. Run the ball well. Catch the ball well when I have the opportunity and pick up blocks.

"But you know, I don't think it's safe to answer that question to see exactly what my role will be outside of the obvious of me being able to contribute in the run game and the pass game and play football, basically."

Peterson said he didn't necessarily look at the Lions' schedule when he decided to play in Detroit, although it is one where he'll face all of his former teams -- Arizona, Washington, New Orleans and Minnesota.

"No, I'm not that salty, you know," Peterson said, laughing. "It was just a great opportunity, to be honest with you. A great team. I loved what Bevell had to say and Coach [Matt] Patricia and when I evaluated the team, I felt like I could really contribute and help this team be successful.

"That was ultimately the main thing and being able to play in the NFC North was a bonus, for sure."

One other thing was a bonus and also a little bit of coincidence: Peterson is 1,053 yards from catching Barry Sanders -- considered the best player in Lions history -- on the all-time rushing list. Peterson has 14,216 career rushing yards. Sanders had 15,269.

Sanders, who retired on the eve of the 1999 season and will have a fan cutout of himself at Ford Field this fall, welcomed Peterson to the team on Twitter soon after he signed. It was one of two Lions-related things he realized after deciding to sign with the club. The other was a callback from last year, when he signed a short-term deal with Starter and asked them for a replica of the Lions jacket worn by Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop."

He received the jacket a year ago. It's now hanging in his locker at the team facility in Allen Park, Michigan.

"It's been a lot of things that I've been kind of thinking about," Peterson said. "I never thought when I got that jacket last year that I'd be standing here with the Lions behind me, with the Lions shirt on playing for the Lions.

"But sometimes your journey goes on a different path and for me I'm just going to make the best of it and do my best to help bring a championship to Detroit."

Before he plays his first game with the Lions, Peterson did confirm he will be kneeling during the national anthem -- something he first said he would do when he was in Washington this summer -- and that he has the full support of the coaching staff.

The Lions, pre-Peterson, were the first professional sports team to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake last month by canceling practice to discuss police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.