Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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In suspending Adrian Peterson without pay for the rest of the season, Roger Goodell made the right decision, and probably for the wrong reasons.
When the photographs of the damage Peterson did to his four-year-old son were made public, with the caveat that the wounds had begun healing before the photos were taken, it was clear that Peterson had behaved inhumanly, using his incredible physical power to damage someone innocent and defenseless.
The courts in Texas, where child brutality is often mistaken for strong parenting, barely blinked before cutting Peterson a favorable plea deal. Vikings’ management tried to reinstate him after one missed game, with general manager Rick Spielman saying `` We believe this is a case of a parent disciplining his child.’’
The only person with the power and willingness to discipline Peterson would be Goodell, the NFL commissioner. And he did.
To think he punished Peterson severely strictly because Goodell was concerned with the child’s safety would be naïve. Goodell punished Peterson severely to offer a warning to other wayward players, to challenge the players’ union, and to reestablish himself as an authoritative figure months after he was made to look either foolish or corrupt with his handling of Ray Rice’s act of domestic violence.
Goodell is severely punishing Peterson because he so lightly punished Rice, initially handing Rice a two-game suspension even while knowing that Rice knocked out his then-fiancee in an elevator.
There will be howls of protest from Vikings fans, and fantasy football owners, but Goodell got this right. He had two choices moving forward: To remove himself as acting judge and jury of player misconduct cases, or to make an example of a star athlete who harmed a child.
Peterson earned this level of punishment. Whether Goodell has the right to impose it is a matter for the courts, and Goodell probably won’t mind watching Peterson’s legal team fighting him in the courts, where Goodell for once will get to wear a white hat.
There are new podcasts up at Souhanunfiltered.com, and this afternoon I'll be at Devil's Advocate bar in downtown Minneapolis with Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo, from 4-5 p.m. Jeff Dubay will host his podcast right after us.
Michael has covered the NFL before, so we'll talk about Peterson a bit before getting into how Michael went from a guy hanging around the offices at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel to becoming one of the best hockey writers and reporters in North America. You can listen live at Souhanunfiltered.com - or listen anytime. That's the cool thing about podcasts.
My full column on Peterson, with different thoughts on his predicament, will be up tonight on startribune.com and in tomorrow's paper. Thanks.
I'll also be live at Shamrock's in St. Paul on Wednesday at 8, talking about the NFL and other topics. That will preceed a music showcase for the @Aliveandsocial network, as local acts Nathan Anderson and The Last Ride will take the stage. They are remarkably talented and I'd love to see our towns support them and other rising talents.
Vikings owner Mark Wilf said two things that cannot be disputed on Wednesday after the team decided to suspend Adrian Peterson.
He said: ``We made a mistake’’ when deciding earlier this week that Peterson should play this Sunday.
He also said: ``It’s a fluid situation.’’
Yes, it is.
Once Anheuser-Busch, one of the NFL’s foremost sponsors, publicly upbraided the Vikings’ decision, all that beer swept away the Vikings’ previous decision.
That’s why the Vikings decided to suspend Peterson, with pay: Because of the fear of major sponsors running away from the team and the league.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf offered a prepared statement on Wednesday morning at Winter Park but did not take questions.
When Zygi Wilf left the stage, co-owner Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and vice president Kevin Warren did take questions.
The most repeated phrase of the press conference: ``We believe we got it right.’’
Yes, they got it right after public backlash and the threat of sponsor retreat made playing Peterson untenable.
I don’t blame Spielman for this or for being unable to offer any big-picture questions about Peterson on Monday. He’s a wielder of stopwatches and personnel decisions. He’s not equipped to speak on child abuse by his best player.
Warren is a legal expert. He emphasized that ``It’s very clear that the Minnesota Vikings are the ones who initiated this process.’’
The Wilfs were the people who got this wrong to begin with and who underestimated what the reaction would be to playing an admitted child abuser.
But at least Zygi and Mark eventually, belatedly, showed their faces.
Where is the NFL commissioner?
Roger Goodell is paid $44 million a year by NFL owners to be the corporate face of the NFL.
He rose through the NFL as a public relations expert.
When the NFL needed him the most, he ducked under the NFL’s cloak of invisibility.
He hasn’t merely appeared weak while mismanaging the disciplining of Ray Rice and Peterson.
He has appeared cowardly.
Warren said the Vikings ``initiated’’ the process of suspending Peterson, and that the commissioner then granted the Vikings an exemption to allow them to pay Peterson and keep his rights.
In other words, while cowering in his Manhattan offices and collecting his millions, Goodell needed the Vikings’ obviously overwhelmed braintrust to suggest a solution to the league’s latest nightmare.
Goodell should be embarrassed.
It doesn’t seem like that’s an option for him.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
If not for TMZ obtaining a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in the face in an elevator, Rice would be returning to the field this Sunday.
Given only a video in which Rice drags an unconscious body from the elevator, NFL commissioner levied only a two-game suspension of Rice.
If not for severe backlash from sponsors and the public after announcing that Adrian Peterson would play this week, Peterson would be returning to the field this Sunday.
Given only photos displaying numerous, large, open wounds on the body of his 4-year-old son, and Peterson's admission to police that he beat his child, the Vikings would have levied no further penalties.
The NFL lacks decency. We knew that before, and that notion has been reaffirmed the last few weeks.
The NFL and the Vikings reacted to the reaction of sponsors and politicians. Left to their own devices, they would have welcomed Rice and Peterson back this weekend.
They don't deserve praise for their belated decisions. They deserve scorn for being forced to do the right thing.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
St. Louis -
Just got to the press box at the Edward Jones Dome (such an elegant name). And here's my pick for today:
I think the Rams are an ordinary team. Their strength on offense should be running the ball with Zac Stacy, and yet Stacy is being pushed for playing time by Benny Cunningham. If your lead back isn't really your lead back, how good are you at running the ball?
I think the key to the game will be the Vikings' offensive line, because the Rams' strength is its front seven. If Matt Kalil plays well, Vikings win, something like 23-16.
I'm placing my faith in Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I think he'll put the offense in position to win, whether that means helping Kalil or running plays that defuse the Rams' pass rush. The Vikings have enough talent on offense to score points against even a quality defense, and the Vikings' defense will face its most comfortable matchup of the early season.
Korzo is in studio and I'm in St. Louis for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500ESPN-AM. Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel and regular guest Tom Linnemann will join. Enjoy Group of Death.
You never know what you’re going to get when you sit down to interview a star.
You might catch them on a good day, or a bad day. They might have something else on their minds. They might like, or not like, something you’ve written about them in the past. They might not have anything to say, or go into the interview with the intent of getting through it without saying anything notable.
I visited Bud Selig in his office after he threatened the Twins with contraction. He gave me an hour. For an hour, I tried to get him to admit some culpability in the situation, to offer some details about the Pohlads’ willingness to have their team contracted. He deflected every question.
Yesterday, I sat down with Adrian Peterson after practice. I prepared questions on five different topics, hoping he would be interesting on at least one of them. I started him with questions about being around other celebrities at the celebrity softball game at the All-Star game at Target Field.
Then I started asking football questions, and he offered up all of the interesting stuff that is in today’s column: That he wants to break Emmitt Smith’s record, that he considers Barry Sanders the greatest back of all time, that he wants to be the greatest player who ever lived, that he wants to retire as a Viking, and that he thinks Norv Turner’s offense will be the best he’s played in.
I’d like to take credit for masterfully dragging all of that out of him, but I can’t. Peterson was ready and willing to open up, and I was lucky enough to be there.
I’ve always found him to be a remarkably engaging and approachable superstar. Here are a few of the things he said that didn’t make the column:
-The importance of winning a Super Bowl: ``One thing people will be shocked to hear me say is, I’d give it all away for a Super Bowl. I’m not a selfish player. I’ve never been a selfish player. It’s not about me. I set my goals, but if we win and I’m rushing for 75 yards and helping us win, I’m happy. This is a team game and the ultimate goal is a championship.
``Any way I can help, in the passing game or a running game, I’ll help. It might take 200 yards rushing. It might take catching the ball. Whatever it takes, I’m all in. I want to hold the ultimate trophy up, and look at all the guys I played with, and know they can’t take that away from us. That’s what I’m all about.’’
-His willingness to set dramatic goals for himself, like rushing for 2,500 yards this season: ``You only live once. Why limit yourself?’’
-What it was like playing in the All-Star game celebrity softball game at Target Field, and having Jenny Finch throw a couple of fastballs by him: ``That was fun. It was a great experience to be around some different people. That was my first time experiencing the celebrity all-star game. Hopefully I’ll be invited back. It was cool to be around some of the legends who play baseball, and Nelly, and the celebrities out there.
``And Jenny Finch? I knew she looked athletic and a lot of people were talking about her, but you thought, `A woman? Shouldn’t be too bad.’ She proved me wrong. It was fun. It was for the fans, and I enjoyed it.
``She threw that fastball, and was like, `Whoa, this just got serious.’ I thought maybe I should have just had her stick to underhand pitching. But I love challenges, so I was like, bring it. I tipped one of them, at least.’’
-Being a low-profile superstar, who had other stars bowing to him: ``I know! I noticed that, too. I thought, man, I guess I have some pull. My friends tell me this all the time – the way you react, you don’t realize the type of star ability you have. It definitely stood out in that setting. Being around them and still getting recognized, it was cool. I just enjoyed blending in.’’
-Being a star who doesn’t seek every endorsement or photo op: ``That’s definitely by design. It’s just my mentality. That’s my vibe. I’ve always been that kind of low-key, solo-type guy. I really don’t like too much attention. That’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve been dealing with it since Little League, and then I had that little blank area of my life where I got off-track, but then in high school, my junior and senior year I was the No. 1 player in the nation. There was a lot of recognition that came with that. I’ve always shied away from attention since that.’’
=On entering a season as a 29-year old at a position where being 30 is dangerous: ``It just means that time flies. But, to be honest, I feel like I’m a different breed than 99 percent of the running backs in the league.’’
I'll be on 1500ESPN at a different time today, 11:15 instead of 12:15. Back to regular programming after that.
We'll run Sunday Sports Talk 10-noon on Sunday at the 1500ESPN stage at the State Fair.
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