A corner in the Vikings locker room of Winter Park has been deserted over the past two months.
On one side, there's a tribute to the late Korey Stringer, who died in 2001, but his locker is sealed in glass. To its left are two lockers occupied by running back Adrian Peterson — once the face of the franchise, but now a player who has been away from the facility since Sept. 15.
His locker hasn't been touched, nor will it be this season, after the NFL suspended him for the remainder of the season. The reality set in Tuesday for Vikings players that Peterson likely won't return in 2014, even as they deal with the complicated circumstances causing his absence.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued the suspension based on Peterson's court case, where he ended up pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault after beating his 4-year-old son with a switch. After playing in the season opener, Peterson missed nine games while on the commissioner's exempt list before the suspension came down.
"I can understand there are multiple perspectives on the decision," Vikings center John Sullivan said, "based on the [commissioner's] letter … and based on the way people are feeling about the fact that he's already missed a significant amount of time.
"I can understand it's not a simple issue, let's put it that way."
Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP, has become the center of a national discussion on parenting over the past two months. Some continued to defend Peterson's character while admitting his actions were excessive.
"It's a bad act what he did," wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said on KFAN Radio. "Everybody was raised different. We all know Adrian is not a bad person. You've got to get to know people and just know about them. You just can't judge a man because he whooped his child.
"You cannot teach nobody on this planet Earth how to be raised. Everybody get raised differently and everybody grows up differently. Adrian was probably raised in a household where he got whooped all the time, so he probably thought that was the thing to do to his child if your child gets out of hand."
Goodell imposed a mandatory program incorporating therapy and counseling that Peterson must go through to be reinstated next season. The NFL did not feel nine games removed from the Vikings with pay was an adequate punishment for Peterson's actions, although Patterson disagreed.
"He done paid the price already, and I feel like the league, they're stepping out of hand with it," Patterson said. "I feel like they're doing too much."
Sullivan said a larger issue has emerged with the NFL's new personal conduct policy and the authority given to Goodell, who cited the new policy for Peterson's discipline and will oversee the appeal process.
But even as Sullivan, one of two Vikings on the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives, analyzed the situation and the effects it will have on everyone involved, his thoughts focused on the disciplined child.
"Ultimately what happened today was about the specific instance and thinking about the 4-year-old who was involved in this whole thing," Sullivan said.