It’s in Jerome Felton’s nature to throw everything he’s got into blocking those who are trying to take down Adrian Peterson. He hasn’t been able to do so physically since Week 1.
But on Tuesday, the Vikings fullback buckled the proverbial chinstrap, lowered his head and went after everybody in Peterson’s path, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who released the stern 1,600-word ruling that suspended Peterson until at least April 15 for the injuries he caused his son when he decided to wield a wooden switch on him as a form of discipline.
“This whole thing has been one big mess by the league from Day 1,” Felton said. “Today didn’t make it any cleaner. It made it messier. I couldn’t disagree more with the ruling. I’m disappointed all the way around. For Adrian and as a player who is concerned about the arbitrary nature of how punishments are decided. Nothing Goodell does surprises me.”
Felton accuses the league and Goodell of worrying less about justice in the Peterson case and more about public relations. He also objects to what he considers the misguided lumping of Peterson with the coinciding news of a different form of domestic abuse by former Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was suspended indefinitely after a video surfaced of him punching and knocking out his then-fiancée.
“Everybody knows that if the Ray Rice video had not come out, this would not be going on right now,” Felton said. “It’s definitely more about, ‘How’s this thing going to look PR-wise when he comes back?’ than what is fair and what are the guidelines to follow.
“I also put a lot of blame on the NFL Players Association and a CBA that basically gives the players no individual rights when it comes to this process.”
Felton took particular offense to Goodell’s accusation that Peterson didn’t show remorse and therefore was a risk to repeat his actions. Felton believes Peterson did express remorse but obviously raised the commissioner’s ire by refusing, in conjunction with the players union, to attend last Friday’s meeting with Goodell concerning his status on the exempt list.
“First of all, Adrian shouldn’t have to express remorse to anybody but his son; not to the commissioner during what was an unfair process,” Felton said. “Secondly, I don’t care what you think of what he did. He is not a child abuser. He used poor judgment with a disciplinary technique that is used in places in the country.
“That’s something that needs to be addressed going forward by everybody because it definitely is a split issue with a lot of people on both sides. Adrian will learn from this and be a leader in education in that area. Anybody who says he’s a child abuser, then I have an issue with that person.”
Felton said he owes Peterson a lot professionally. From 2008 to 2011, Felton was an NFL nobody who was bounced from Detroit to Carolina to Indianapolis. In 2012, he was a Pro Bowl player leading the way for a league MVP who ran for 2,097 yards.
“But I wouldn’t go to bat like this for just anybody,” Felton said. “I’ve really put myself out there on this one. I get Twitter messages, and I want to reach through the screen and grab people. And I wouldn’t do this for someone I didn’t believe in as a person as much as a football player. This guy is not a monster. And this is not right.”
Felton also challenged people to compare Peterson’s punishment to others in the past “who have done much worse.” In the eyes of the law, Peterson ended up pleading no contest to a misdemeanor.
“At the end of the day, he basically will have been suspended for 15 games and fined $4 million [in lost wages],” Felton said. “And we don’t know what the Vikings will do. Say they release him on April 15. He would miss the start of free agency, when all of the money is spent and his options are limited.
“To me, it’s totally unjust punishment. Totally unjust.”