Echoing earlier sentiments of his head coach, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the team wants Adrian Peterson to return to Minnesota once the suspended running back is eligible to apply for reinstatement on April 15.
“I don’t know if there’s a team in the NFL that wouldn’t want Adrian Peterson on the football team,” Spielman said Wednesday at Winter Park. “If you can name me one … and I don’t want to speak for other teams. I’m being a little sarcastic with that. But I know that he’s a pretty good football player.”
Spielman also defended Peterson’s character and indicated that traditional assumptions regarding the viability of a running back who turns 30 on March 21 don’t apply to the 2012 NFL MVP. But the general manager put off making any definitive comments about Peterson’s future until he’s cleared by the league, and the team is able to talk to him for the first time since Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him on Nov. 18.
“I’ll just stick by with what I’ve said,” Spielman said. “I know that Adrian is a good person, just being around him. I know he’s done a lot of good in this community. What he did — he just came out and said he made a mistake. As [coach Mike Zimmer] had stated earlier, he has to get all that in order and then we’ll proceed from there.”
Peterson played the season opener but was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on a felony charge of child abuse stemming from injuries that he caused while whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch. The team held Peterson out of action in Week 2 and he was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list for the next nine games.
He was suspended after that when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge. Peterson lost an appeal to overturn the suspension, which cost him six game checks totaling $4.1 million, and has since filed a lawsuit against the league along with the NFL Players Association. Whether that inhibits Peterson’s ability to fulfill requirements for reinstatement set forth by Goodell remains to be seen.
The only thing Spielman sounded certain about was the kind of impact he expects from Peterson once he does return to the field. He likened doubts about Peterson at this stage in his career to those widely expressed before Peterson came off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee to run for 2,097 yards and win league MVP in 2012.
“Adrian is maybe one of the most unique players I’ve ever been around,” Spielman said. “Everybody talked about how he isn’t going to be the same after his ACL. And that was his best year, coming back from that.
“Knowing Adrian … he’s going to play at a very high level when he comes back. I’m anticipating that.”
One widely presumed sticking point in Peterson’s return to the Vikings is a 2015 salary cap figure of $15.4 million with a $13 million salary, both league highs for a running back. The team has not commented on Peterson’s salary one way or the other, and Spielman refused to answer Wednesday when asked if the team could afford to carry Peterson at that cap figure.
Spielman made it sound as though the team won’t pursue running backs in free agency, which starts a month before Peterson is eligible to return. The draft, however, sounds like a possibility.
“I think a lot of it will depend on Adrian’s situation,” said Spielman, who called this year’s running back class “one of the better” ones, depth-wise, in years.
Meanwhile, Spielman’s preferred choice at running back sounds pretty clear, albeit in a murky situation.
“I’ve known Adrian his whole career and what type of person Adrian is,” Spielman said. “But I also know that we have to follow everything that’s put in place for us. Is there a resolution? Not right now.”