Vikings General Manger Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer, uncertain as to exactly where they stood with Adrian Peterson, stepped inside the tall, steel gates outside the running back’s massive Houston home Wednesday.
Peterson, wearing a white T-shirt and black sweatpants, was waiting by the front door. He shook Spielman’s hand and pulled him in for a quick hug and then did the same with Zimmer before welcoming them into his home to talk about his future.
The Vikings hope the four-hour meeting, believed to be Spielman and Zimmer’s first face-to-face get-together with Peterson since he was exiled from the team in September, will be the first significant step in easing the tension between the running back and the only NFL team he has ever played for, the same one he isn’t sure he wants to return to.
While Vikings officials and sources close to Peterson were mum on what was discussed before Spielman and Zimmer left Wednesday afternoon, Peterson released a statement saying he thought the conversation went well, though he still has concerns.
“I appreciate Rick and Coach Zimmer coming down to see me today,” Peterson said. “We had a great dialogue and they were able to understand where I was coming from and concerns my family and I still have. We respect each other and hopefully the situation can pan out so that everyone involved is content.”
Peterson’s future with the Vikings has been uncertain since he was charged with child abuse in Texas in September and, under the team’s urging, placed on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list. Peterson said last month that he felt “uneasy” about a possible return to the Vikings, citing a perceived lack of support from the organization.
The Vikings, meanwhile, have been maintaining publicly that they would like Peterson to be on the 2015 team. But this was Spielman’s and Zimmer’s first chance to tell him in person and attempt to ease any of his concerns about coming back.
The Vikings, except for their legal department, could not talk with Peterson while he was suspended. But that suspension was sent back to the league last week by Judge David Doty, who ruled an NFL arbitrator’s upholding of the suspension was flawed. The NFL then put Peterson back on the exempt list, meaning anyone with the team could talk with him again.
Spielman said Monday that the Vikings had spoken to Peterson by phone and would continue to have an “open dialogue” with him while he’s on the commissioner’s exempt list. Two days later, Spielman and Zimmer were in Texas.
Peterson, whose contract runs through 2017, is scheduled to make $12.75 million this season and his $15.4 million salary cap hit is the league’s highest among running backs.
The Vikings have dodged questions about whether they will ask Peterson to take a pay cut to remain on the team. But the uncertain financial situation has likely added to the tension.