Rick Spielman did something antithetical to his reputation in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
The Vikings general manager stood pat. He kept the 11th overall pick and a certain malcontent running back.
Both decisions make sense.
The Vikings looked to improve their secondary by selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes with their first pick. And they looked to improve their offense by keeping Adrian Peterson on the roster.
Can we finally move on to something else now?
Well, maybe not quite yet, because the Vikings conceivably could trade Peterson on Friday, if another team blows Spielman away with an offer too good to refuse.
Like many of us, though, Spielman clearly is fatigued by this story. He responded tersely when asked if any team inquired about Peterson during the first round.
“Nothing has changed with Adrian. End of story,” he said.
If that’s true and draft weekend ends without a trade, the Vikings will have made good on their repeated public stance that they intend to keep Peterson. And Spielman and Co. will have won the battle of wills, unless Peterson wants to drag this out and boycott training camp.
The Vikings played this stalemate perfectly. They own Peterson’s contractual rights so they hold all the leverage, not Peterson, as much as he and his goofball agent tried to create more acrimony.
Peterson and his rep, Ben Dogra, thought they could force the Vikings into a trade by expressing Peterson’s unhappiness and desire to play for a different team.
As recently as this week, Peterson reportedly told a Dallas TV station that “it would be nice” to play for the Cowboys.
Peterson created this mess. How he managed to cast himself as the victim in this whole saga is beyond comprehension. He shouldn’t get to dictate his exit or entice the Vikings to rework his contract to make him feel welcomed.
That idea has been floated recently as a way to soothe Peterson’s hurt feelings. Hogwash. The Vikings shouldn’t feel compelled to give Peterson more guaranteed money when he’s already scheduled to make $12.75 million this season, which is far more than any other team would be willing to pay him.
In the absence of blockbuster compensation from a trade partner, Spielman couldn’t acquiesce to Peterson’s demand for change for two reasons:
One, the Vikings obviously are a better team with him than without him. Peterson’s presence will ease some of the pressure on Teddy Bridgewater as he continues to develop as their franchise quarterback.
The Vikings believe they can become a playoff team this season with Peterson, Bridgewater and an improving Mike Zimmer defense. They would be foolish to discard that plan just because Peterson or his wife no longer feels comfortable in Minnesota.
Additionally, Spielman knows that caving in this situation would set a bad precedent in terms of allowing players to force their way out of town. Yes, Percy Harvin got his wish, but that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison because Harvin was approaching a contract year and the Vikings had to make a decision on his future.
Peterson is under contract for three more seasons. The Vikings aren’t on the clock to make a rushed decision.
Peterson can pout if he wants, as long as he produces on the field.
The dynamics between him and the team might be irreparably damaged, but it’s not in Peterson’s nature to slack on the field. He’s always used his legacy in the game as a driving force.
Peterson has never shortchanged anything on the field. He won’t start doing that now just because he’s mad at Vikings COO Kevin Warren or the media or fans or whoever else he believes has wronged him.
The Vikings will get an angry, motivated and refreshed Peterson this season. In his heart, he probably knows that his best hope for a fresh start somewhere else is to have a healthy, productive season for the Vikings in 2015.
Maybe that new beginning will be right here. Maybe being around his coaches and teammates will make Peterson feel comfortable with the organization again.
Or it might be that Peterson will never feel that way and will do everything in his power to orchestrate his departure.
But as of late Thursday night, he was still a member of the Vikings, as unlikely as that scenario seemed at one time.
Peterson might be unhappy with that news, but the decision on whether he stayed was never his to make.