If the Vikings care only about winning games, they can do more than merely welcome back Adrian Peterson.

Why not sign Ray Rice? The former Ravens running back could win an appeal of his suspension, and there is no evidence that he has punched a woman in months.

Why not sign Darren Sharper? The former Vikings safety has been accused of sexual assault in three states, but not in Minnesota. He may be able to intercept a few passes between trials.

By announcing that Peterson would play this week, days after he was arrested because he allegedly beat a 4-year-old with a branch, and shortly after the Vikings lost 30-7 to New England, the Vikings established that winning trumps those hollow words they've spit at us over the years about character.

So they might as well bring in every felonious free agent they can find.

There is a pure if unattractive logic in professional sports teams selling their alleged souls to win games. If the Vikings and the NFL had told us all along that they cared only about results, then the Peterson decision would at least be consistent.

There is no consistency, or courage, here.

When Roger Goodell became NFL commissioner, he promised to punish wayward players. When the Wilfs were embarrassed by the Love Boat scandal in 2005, they commissioned a lengthy code of conduct to cleanse an organization that leads the NFL in arrests since 2000.

Monday, the Wilfs shredded the code of conduct and spliced it into a pompom with which to cheer a man who admits he beat his son bloody.

Here is the Vikings' unwritten code of conduct: "If he can help us win, and he's not in jail, we'll stand by our man.''

Goodell and the Wilfs are the Wild West sheriffs who hide their badges when the bad guys ride into town.

The Wilfs couldn't even muster up the fortitude to stand at a lectern and explain their decision Monday. They sent General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer to explain why the team would support a professional football player who left defensive wounds on the hands of a 4-year-old.

In 2011, Vikings cornerback Chris Cook was accused of choking his girlfriend. He was charged with domestic assault. The Vikings suspended him before the courts rendered a verdict. He missed 10 games before being acquitted.

In 2013, Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson was arrested for domestic assault. The team cut him hours later.

Ignore the Vikings' statements. Study their actions. Jefferson was a reserve, so he was released. Cook was a high draft pick, so he was punished but given a second chance. Peterson is a star, so he was benched for one game before being welcomed back.

"It has nothing to do with him as a football player,'' Spielman said. "It's based purely on the facts that we have that have been presented to us.''

There's no reason at the moment to view that as anything but a lie. Even if Peterson is not found guilty by some whim of jurisprudence or southern culture, the facts are not in dispute.

The Vikings are hiding behind the phrase "due process,'' which refers to a citizen's rights in our legal system. "Due process'' has nothing to do with a company deciding whether it wants to be publicly represented by a man who has admitted to police that he whipped a 4-year-old with a branch until the boy bled, after stuffing leaves in the boy's mouth and before threatening to punch him if he told anyone.

Sunday, the Wilfs will cheer for Peterson while waving their shredded code of conduct. Evolved Minnesotans should cheer for any Saints defender who may want to stage an impromptu intervention with the big man who beat the little boy.