Sports Illustrated, given exclusive access to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson throughout this season, released this week a long article that takes a look back at the controversy that engulfed Peterson in 2014 and his how that relates to the present day.
It’s an interesting read — pretty well-done, though not altogether satisfying. The last part is not the fault of any person or a failing of the writing. It’s just a nod to the fact that Peterson’s life and how he is viewed remains complicated.
If you want it to be a tale of redemption, it’s not that.
If you want to be mad at Peterson because he hasn’t learned or grown between the 2014 season and now, the story will show you that’s not true, either.
If you want to find a lot of “a-ha!” moments, you’ll find a few but not as many as you might want. A lot of it is what we already knew or suspected. But against that backdrop, here are a few things I found to be either highlights or particularly interesting nuggets:
*Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on child abuse charges in September of 2014, missing all but one game of that season. Yet he did not meet face-to-face with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell until April of 2015 — at which time, Peterson says, one of Goodell’s first questions was, “What is a whuppin’?”
It’s incredibly odd that one of the league’s top players would go seven months and most of a season before getting that meeting.
*Peterson appears to be trying to walk a very thin line between somehow maintaining innocence while also acknowledging that he should change his ways. Some might call that a contradiction. It’s outlined in these passages from author Greg Bishop:
More than a year later Peterson maintains his innocence. He says he never meant to harm his child. He says he apologized — to the boy, to the Vikings and to the public — and took responsibility. He says he understands why people who saw the police-report photos of the child’s injuries, which were illegally leaked shortly after the indictment, may never forgive him. But he does not believe his actions constituted abuse, and he doesn’t particularly care when others — doctors, social workers, parents across the country — think they do. … To Peterson, how outsiders view his case is an indication of a cultural misunderstanding. He says he disciplined his child the way his parents disciplined him, which is the way many parents punished their children where he grew up. No one there called it corporal punishment or child abuse. They called it parenting, even good parenting. That’s why Peterson scoffs at the notion of redemption, because he doesn’t think there’s anything for him to redeem.
And yet …
Peterson says that through counseling he learned other methods of discipline. He says he’ll never use a switch again. Dr. Robert Sege, a board member for Prevent Child Abuse America who has no direct connection to Peterson’s case, describes Peterson acknowledging his mistake and changing the way he parents as “terrific progress,” whether Peterson calls what he did abuse or not.
*You get a pretty good sense for how he views his football legacy, including a fantastic quote about greatness:
“There will be guys that come around that people will compare to me, like how they compare Kobe or LeBron to Jordan. Look, Jordan was the best. You haven’t seen anyone like that since.” His body stiffens. His eyes narrow. “There won’t be another Adrian Peterson,” he says. “There will be a guy that reminds you of me. But there will only be one me.”
In the end, though, most readers will probably not be moved too far off of whatever opinion they had of Peterson before reading the piece. If you’ve forgiven Peterson or softened your stance as he’s racked up yards this year, that won’t change. If you swore off the Vikings forever when they brought him back, that won’t change. And if your feelings remain complicated, that won’t change.