Several Vikings players fully support welcoming Adrian Peterson back to team
Adrian Peterson entered a no contest plea in a Texas court on Tuesday to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault in relation to an indictment on a felony charge of injury to a child. Peterson was indicted in September on the charge stemming from an incident when he whipped his 4-year-old son with a tree branch.
As part of the no contest plea, Peterson was fined $4,000, must complete parenting classes and perform 80 hours of community service. He also remains under court supervision for two years.
With the plea, the Minnesota Vikings running back avoids any jail time and the first step to his possible return to the NFL has been accomplished.
After missing eight games, it is unclear exactly when Peterson will or can be reinstated from the NFL’s exempt/commissioner’s permission list, nor if he is subject to a new NFL policy that calls for a player to receive a six-game suspension, without pay, for a first domestic violence offense, per the Star Tribune.
Neither the NFL nor the Vikings organization were willing to make any concrete comment on how the plea deal may affect whether or not — or when — Peterson may return to the football field.
In an email to USA Today, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello reportedly wrote, “We would review the matter, including the court record, and the commissioner would make a determination. We cannot provide a timetable.”
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he would discuss the situation later, saying the team will “keep all our comments under the Adrian situation until it’s appropriate to speak, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Despite the restrained manner in which the league and the team made their respective first comments regarding Peterson, several Vikings players went on record to pledge full support for the exiled running back, saying to a man — at least those who were quoted — that the team would welcome back Peterson into the locker room with open arms.
“We all know the kind of person he is, and we’ve stood behind him this whole time,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said, per a Star Tribune report. “Anytime you can have a veteran back in that locker room, the leader that he is in the locker room, out on the practice field would be huge for us.”
Rudolph later added that not to welcome back Peterson would be “crazy.”
“We’ve stood behind him this whole time,” he said, via USA Today. “You’d be crazy not to welcome him back into that locker room.”
Linebacker and veteran team leader Chad Greenway attempted to differentiate between a player’s personal life and professional life when discussing the situation.
“As far as what’s happened, it’s his business,” he said. “He’s got to handle it. And we’re here to do our jobs, so that’s what we’re focused on.”
Fullback Jerome Felton, speaking for the team, said the consensus in the locker room is that the players want Peterson back in the fold.
“I think everybody’s hopeful that he’ll have an opportunity to come back,” Felton said. “He’ll definitely have 100% support in the locker room.”
It is understandable that the Vikings players would like to see Peterson back in purple, but both the Vikings and the NFL recognize the decisions made regarding Peterson from this point forward are fraught with the risk of a public relations backlash.
The Vikings understand that all too well. After deactivating Peterson for a game immediately after the allegations came to light, the team said he would rejoin the team, a decision that caused controversy with both fans and advertisers.
The NFL, meanwhile, has been criticized for appearing soft on the punishment of players for off-the-field transgressions — those that don’t include minor drug offenses, that is — specifically in domestic violence cases, prompted by how the Ray Rice saga initially became a PR nightmare before the league changed course.
But to ask Vikings players, what a player does in his personal life as it relates to legal trouble — such as the one Peterson found himself in — matters little, insofar as it relates to whether or not the player should be able to pursue their football career, at least once the justice system has spoken. This is even more evident when the player is an all-world athlete and a superstar.
Their personal opinions on what Peterson did to his young son, however, irrespective of his superstar status, may be a very different thing.
(image credit:David J. Phillip/Associated Press)