Running back Adrian Peterson met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of being reinstated. Peterson was suspended in November after pleading no contest in the child abuse case involving his son. He was eligible to be reinstated on Apr. 15.
However, those plans quickly changed in late February when Minneapolis-based U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ruled that the suspension should be voided. The league then moved Peterson from the suspended list to the Commissioner’s Exempt List.
The Minnesota Vikings then released the following statement: “Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization.”
The series of events between the organization, Peterson and his agent Ben Dogra that followed left fans and NFL personnel confused. Peterson said he felt “uneasy” about returning to the Vikings, citing people in the organization that did not want to defend him when his case became public.
Dogra dug his heels into the ground, stating that it is in his client’s best interest to play somewhere other than Minnesota in 2015.
“I don’t think it’s in Adrian’s best interest to play in Minnesota. Why would it be?” Dogra told reporters in March.
In turn, the Vikings held their ground minutes later.
“The bottom line is Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings. He’s represented us on and off the field. We’re getting ready for the 2015 season and we fully expect him to join his teammates and be a part of what we feel is going to be a great season ahead,” Vikings co-owner and president Mark Wilf told reporters.
While the organization has attempted to patch up issues Peterson might have with the team, including meeting with the running back at his home, the fact remains — the Vikings hold all the cards. Peterson is still under contract and it is up to the team to decide if trading or cutting him is in their best interest.
On the matter of his reinstatement, it makes no difference if Peterson becomes eligible to play today, tomorrow or Apr. 15. It is certain (barring any unforeseen circumstances) he will play in 2015. The question is, where?
The simple fact is, the Vikings need him. They have a young, ascending team with a signal caller entering his sophomore season. It is in Teddy Bridgewater’s best interest to have one of the best running backs in the league lined up five yards behind him. Even beyond the veteran leadership factor, Peterson’s ability to draw safeties in the box open up passing lanes for Bridgewater.
As a whole, the Vikings went 7-9 without Peterson last season and are on the precipice of taking the leap into playoff contention. Playing another season without No. 28 may stunt the team’s growth and force them to use a high pick on a running back, instead of addressing another team need, in the 2015 or 2016 draft.
However, if Peterson truly feels betrayed by the organization, how far is he willing to go in an effort to be traded?
The only real power the 30-year-old has is to hold out and refuse to play. By not showing up to team workouts, he would forfeit a $250,000 workout bonus. Is it worth giving up a quarter of a million dollars to hold out? Maybe, but again, how far is he willing to go?
Peterson is set to make $13 million next season in salary and bonuses — is he willing to sit out until the NFL’s trade deadline in October? How about the entire season? This situation could get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
When Peterson is reinstated, he and the Vikings each must decide how far they are willing to go to fight for their position. Maybe Peterson changes his mind and decides he wants to stay with the only NFL franchise he has ever known. In that case, all’s well that ends well. If not, this summer will be dominated by daily updates about what Peterson and his camp are thinking.
Adrian Peterson will play in the NFL next year, but the color of his uniform is still to be determined. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys continue to wait.