Let’s play amateur family counselor with six words that could bring a merciful solution to the Adrian Peterson saga and a rebirth in the relationship between the running back, the Vikings, Minnesota and a passionate fan base.
The first three words are for the Vikings: Pay da man.
The next two words are for Peterson: Be humble.
And the final word is for fans, media, Radisson hoteliers, governors, et al: Forgiveness.
U.S. District Judge David Doty cleared the way Thursday for Peterson to be reinstated by the NFL, which suspended the 2012 league MVP through at least April 15 because of injuries he caused while whipping his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.
In his 16-page ruling, Doty said arbitrator Harold Henderson “simply disregarded the law of the shop and in doing so failed to meet his duty” under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Doty sided with the NFL Players Association’s argument that Henderson improperly applied a new, stiffer disciplinary policy retroactively to Peterson’s case.
Doty essentially told the arbitrator to re-tee and hit the next one in bounds. The NFL said it would appeal to the Eighth District Court of Appeals and placed Peterson back on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. So the league might get its desired date of April 15 either way.
Meanwhile, one thing is certain. At some point, the battle will end. For now, at least the talking can begin. With Peterson off suspension and back on the exempt list, he and the Vikings will be permitted to talk for the first time since the suspension began in November. And, boy oh boy, do they need to sit down face to face and talk.
Right now, the word “suspicious” comes to mind when searching for one to describe their relationship. Peterson suspects the Vikings aren’t unified in their support. The Vikings suspect he might be angling for a one-way flight to Cowboys headquarters.
Meanwhile, back to those six soothing words.
Pay da man
The Vikings have not even hinted publicly about cutting Peterson’s salary. No one has reported anything concrete to that effect, but everyone seemingly has assumed the team will ask Peterson to come down from his $12.75 million salary and $15.4 million salary cap figure.
That assumption gained momentum when CBS Sports reported that Ben Dogra and Rob Brzezinski had to be separated during a spat at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Dogra is Peterson’s agent. Brzezinski is the Vikings’ lead contract negotiator and salary cap guru.
If the Vikings do insist on a pay cut, it’s over. First, Peterson told ESPN.com that he wouldn’t take a pay cut. Secondly, asking a man to cut his pay won’t bring calm to what certainly appears to be an increasingly volatile situation.
So pay the man. There’s room under the salary cap, which is expected to climb above $140 million. The starting quarterback is on Year 2 of a rookie contract. Peterson is the best player on the roster and, when healthy, the best running back in the league. And there are plenty of other avenues available to create cap space.
Critics argue that Peterson will be 30 next month. That he will be the highest-paid running back in a league that has devalued the position.
How soon we forget. The last time Peterson was put in a box based on typical expectations for normal human beings, he ran for 2,097 yards a year after his left leg essentially fell off at the knee. And he did it while carrying Christian Ponder to the playoffs.
“It wasn’t that we all doubted he could come back like that,” Paul Wiggin, the Vikings personnel consultant, said at the time. “We just didn’t know it was even possible until Adrian came along.”
Peterson isn’t normal. There have been eight MVPs awarded since he joined the league. He’s the only non-quarterback in the group.
He’s a great player with an unsurpassed work ethic and a year’s worth of motivation to “run angry,” as Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman put it. So pay the man.
Peterson also told ESPN.com that he was “uneasy” about returning to the Vikings. What he should do is walk a mile in their cleats to feel the uneasiness he caused them.
When the NFL froze and didn’t know what to do with Peterson after his indictment, the Vikings tried to play him. But then all heck broke loose and the NFL stepped in. The “commissioner’s list” exemption wasn’t a Vikings-only decision by any stretch.
If the Vikings were too slow to present a unified front of support for Peterson, well, that’s because he dumped a very divisive and uneasy situation in their laps.
Peterson will get the second chance he deserves and paid for, but he also should keep in mind that his mistake caused all of this, including his own unease.
Peterson has apologized for his mistake and vowed to change. He has been through the legal system. He has paid $4.1 million as part of his suspension. He’s lost endorsements, his shiny image and a season toward his quest for the league’s career rushing title.
This is a league that has extended second chances to players with all sorts of transgressions, including drunken drivers who have killed people.
So, with history as our guide, perhaps it’s time we retreat to a neutral corner and let this man stand up.