By Matt Vensel, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
The Vikings announced early Wednesday morning they have placed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which will keep him away from the team while the legal process involving his child abuse case plays out.
Pressure on the Vikings to bench Adrian Peterson mounted Tuesday, and early Wednesday morning the team gave in.
The Vikings announced shortly after midnight they have placed the star running back on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which will keep him away from the team while the legal process involving his child abuse case plays out.
The team’s statement indicated it consulted with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The decision was rendered after a flurry of statements — some literal and others figurative — from sponsors of Peterson, the Vikings and the NFL expressing disappointment that the team had reinstated the running back Monday morning.
Peterson’s first court appearance on a felony charge in Texas of injuring one of his children while disciplining the child, is set for Oct. 8, but that’s a preliminary hearing. A trial, if there is one, would be in early 2015, a prosecutor has said.
It now seems, if Peterson can’t play until the case is settled, that a plea agreement is likely.
The 2012 NFL MVP issued a long statement on Monday defending his discipline of children while also admitting he regretted the extent of the use of a switch on the 4-year-old.
Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings on Friday, hours after a warrant was issued in his home state. Peterson was not at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday as the Vikings lost their home opener 30-7 to the New England Patriots. The team’s top decisionmakers decided a day later to welcome Peterson back to the team.
“We believe he deserves to play while the legal process plays out,” General Manager Rick Spielman said at a news conference Monday, which was not attended by Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf.
By early Wednesday morning, however, the Vikings had reconsidered and issued a statement from the Wilfs, which read in part:
“This has been an ongoing and deliberate process since last Friday’s news. In conversations with the NFL over the last two days, the Vikings advised the League of the team’s decision to revisit the situation regarding Adrian Peterson. In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian.”
Peterson was back at Winter Park on Tuesday, an off day for players, and was reportedly tailed by a TMZ cameraman as he departed the facility. Also Tuesday, Nike pulled Peterson jerseys off the shelves at its area stories, sponsors distanced themselves from Peterson and Anheuser Busch publicly called for the NFL to get its house in order.
In the short term, the 1-1 Vikings will carry on without their career leading rusher, which did not go so well against the Patriots. With Peterson deactivated, his replacement, Matt Asiata, and the Vikings averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the loss, though quarterback Matt Cassel’s career-high four interceptions were probably a bigger reason for the lopsided outcome.
“(Peterson’s absence) didn’t affect the team,” head coach Mike Zimmer said after Sunday’s loss. “You know what affected the team? Throwing interceptions, getting a field goal blocked, not tackling well enough, having penalties on defense. That’s what affected the team. The team was fine.”
When pressed, though, Zimmer did acknowledge it’s hard to overcome the loss of your best player.
In the long term, it is fair to wonder if this will be Peterson’s final season with the Vikings.
The six-time Pro Bowler is under contract through 2017, but the salary-cap ramifications of cutting him now would not be debilitating. The Vikings would actually save $12 million on this year’s salary cap and $2.4 million in dead money would carry over to next year’s cap.
If they decided to release Peterson, who is scheduled to make $13 million in salary and workout bonuses in 2015, after the season, they would have no future cap penalties beyond 2015.
For now, Peterson’s suspension leaves the Vikings with three inexperienced running backs in Asiata, Joe Banyard, and rookie Jerick McKinnon. They have 65 career carries combined.
Among the notable free agents at the position are Daniel Thomas, Bernard Scott, Evan Royster, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Rice is also a free agent — though still suspended — but it seems unlikely that the Vikings would swap out one public-relations headache for another.
The organization will get no relief today, when both local and national media will surely swarm Winter Park following Peterson’s suspension. Amid the pounding, Zimmer must figure out how to replace one of the NFL’s best running backs while keeping his Vikings team focused on the 0-2 New Orleans Saints, who are still formidable with quarterback Drew Brees, especially at the Superdome.
The Mike Zimmer era that is still in its infancy, but Sunday’s game could produce a defining moment.
“My dad, when he was coaching me when I was growing up, he said, ‘Tough times don’t last but tough people do,'” Zimmer said Monday. “It’s time to get back to work, put our nose to the grindstone, get on the tape, start focusing on the New Orleans Saints. That’s what we do, we get back to work.”
AFP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat
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