On Thursday, a day after Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was eligible to be reinstated, the NFL issued a 211-word statement that announced his return to active duty on Friday while also warning him to continue his counseling and not to step out of line again.
“In a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell, Peterson was informed that he is expected to fulfill his remaining obligations to the authorities in Minnesota and Texas, as well as the additional commitments Peterson made during his April 7 meeting with the commissioner regarding maintaining an ongoing program of counseling and treatment as recommended by medical advisors,” the statement read.
“Beyond the requirement to comply with his court obligations and plan of counseling, Peterson was reminded that his continuing participation in the NFL depends on his avoidance of any further conduct that violates the Personal Conduct Policy or other NFL policies. Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy by Peterson would result in additional discipline, which could include suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL.”
Peterson is eligible to participate in all team activities as of Friday. The team’s offseason conditioning program begins Monday, but it’s unlikely Peterson will participate in the voluntary program, at least immediately. The first mandatory team gathering is the June 16-18 minicamp.
The Vikings quickly released a 23-word statement saying they had been notified by the league and that “we look forward to Adrian rejoining the Vikings.”
Peterson and his agent, Ben Dogra, didn’t return calls from the Star Tribune on Thursday. Peterson has expressed reservations about returning to Minnesota. Meanwhile, Dogra, speaking to reporters at last month’s NFL owners meetings, said: “I don’t think it’s in Adrian’s best interest to play in Minnesota. Why would it be?”
The Vikings’ ownership, front office, coaching staff and players all have expressed a desire for Peterson’s return from a suspension that lasted seven months. Peterson is under contract for three more years, including $12.75 million this year, an important fact that General Manager Rick Spielman has pointed out when asked publicly about Peterson’s future with the team in light of his agent’s comments.
Peterson hasn’t played since last year’s season opener in St. Louis. He rushed for 75 yards on 21 carries, caught two passes for 18 yards and didn’t score in a 34-6 victory. The following Friday, he was indicted in Houston on felony charges related to the injuries he caused while disciplining his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. The Vikings deactivated him for Week 2, announced the following Monday that he would return and changed course two days later when the NFL stepped in amid an outcry from the public and the team’s corporate sponsors.
Peterson was placed on the newly-created commissioner’s exempt list. He was moved to the suspended list on Nov. 18 after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault of his son.
Peterson ended up back on the commissioner’s exempt list on Feb. 27 when U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned an arbitrator’s ruling that sided with the league over Peterson. Rather than reinstate Peterson then, the league moved him back to his original list while it appealed Doty’s decision.
Thursday’s reinstatement gives the Vikings clarity as they head into the draft in two weeks. Naturally, the trade rumors will only increase in volume, but the Vikings aren’t shopping Peterson and would only consider a trade if another team shocked them with an offer they considered wildly lopsided. That’s unlikely considering Peterson’s age, 30, and the fact that another team would be reluctant to entertain a blockbuster trade offer without talking to Peterson and having him take a physical beforehand.
ESPN analyst Bill Polian, a Hall of Famer and former NFL general manager, doesn’t think the Vikings will bend to any public pressure from Dogra.
“Let’s take away the hypotheticals for a moment,” Polian said. “Despite anything his agent may say to the contrary … the following are the facts: He has a valid contract, a multi-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings. And if the Minnesota Vikings decide that they want him to play football for them, he will play football for them or play football for no one.
“So I think that is a fact. It’s very clear-cut. It’s black and white, despite any protestations to the contrary.”