The Adrian Peterson saga reportedly took yet another twist at the NFL scouting combine last week.
According to CBSSports.com, Ben Dogra, the agent for the suspended running back, got into a “heated verbal altercation” with Rob Brzezinski, Vikings vice president of football operations. The two had to be separated, reportedly by ESPN analyst and former NFL General Manager Mark Dominik.
The report added that Dogra “made it clear” during the dust-up that Peterson, who is under contract with the Vikings through the 2017 season, would never play for the team again.
The Monday report from CBS Sports came four days after Peterson told ESPN he felt “uneasy” about the prospect of returning to the Vikings and called their decision to work with the NFL to get him placed on the commissioner’s exempt list following his September child-abuse charge an “ambush.” But Peterson did not definitively tell ESPN he was ready to leave Minnesota.
The Vikings, meanwhile, praised Peterson through the media in recent weeks, saying they would like him to play for them this season. Speaking at the scouting combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday, GM Rick Spielman took it a step further, saying he expects Peterson to be back.
Spielman sidestepped questions, though, about Peterson’s contract, which could be at the root of the conflict between the player and the organization.
The Vikings are expected to ask Peterson to take a pay cut to reduce his restrictive $12.75 million base salary and his $15.4 million salary cap hit for 2015. Both are league highs at the running back position, and Peterson turns 30 in March.
The CBS report did not say what specifically led to the raised voices of Brzezinski and Dogra, but Brzezinski is the team’s lead contract negotiator.
NFL teams routinely use the scouting combine to touch base with agents about their players, whether they are soon-to-be free agents, players with tricky contract situations or just players they want to check on. While the Vikings are allowed only limited communication with Peterson through their legal team while he is suspended, they are permitted to speak with his agent.
Peterson is eligible to be reinstated on April 15. If Peterson remains in limbo with the league until then, more than a month after the start of free agency, most of the NFL teams’ spending money will have already been handed out, giving more leverage to the Vikings if they do request he take a pay cut.
Even with a significant pay cut, the Vikings might still represent Peterson’s biggest possible payday in 2015 because of the devaluation of his position by NFL teams. No free-agent running back has signed a contract of $5 million or more per season since Michael Turner joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2008.
If Peterson does request a trade, he cannot be traded until the start of the league year on March 10. But given his age, contract and recent legal woes, Peterson might not have much trade value if he does request one, though it is expected that multiple teams would at least show interest were he to become available.
The Vikings, who declined to comment on the CBS report, checked out running back prospects at the scouting combine over the weekend in case they will be without Peterson’s services at a later date.