The questions came in rapid-fire succession, with three of them standing out.

Was releasing Adrian Peterson an option?

Is it safe to assume that Adrian Peterson won’t play again this season?

Then the one that could define the utter unpredictability of the NFL from week to week, day to day, moment to moment, both on and off the field.

Will Adrian Peterson ever play again for the Minnesota Vikings?

Less than a week ago, Peterson was the proud face of a franchise that was built around him on the field, in the community and under the salary cap. Sure, he was 29, which is old for a running back, but he was, well, Adrian Peterson. And he was healthy, in great shape and just 14 games removed from a 2,097-yard, MVP-winning season.

Today, he’s an overnight NFL pariah, banished from the playing field when the Vikings reversed course from Monday’s stance and placed him on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list at 12:47 a.m. Wednesday. Less than 36 hours after General Manager Rick Spielman said Peterson “deserved to play” while his legal process played out, backlash from sponsors, politicians, fans and the NFL convinced the Vikings that they couldn’t play Peterson while he deals with an indictment on child abuse charges stemming from the injuries he caused while spanking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch.

“It’s sad,” fullback Jerome Felton said. “This is about as bad as it gets. You got a guy that is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. It’s not the way things should go.”

Like everyone, including Spielman, Felton couldn’t answer that final haunting question from above:

Will Adrian Peterson ever play again for the Minnesota Vikings?

“I don’t know,” Felton said. “It’s really up in the air at this point. I could see it going either way. Obviously, it looks like he’s going to miss the whole season.”

Spielman doesn’t seem to know either. When asked that point-blank question, he stuck with the team’s Wednesday talking point, which was the need to “get this right.”

“You know, our focus, right now, today is to get this right,” Spielman said. “We admitted to making a mistake [on Monday] and we want to get this right. And we want to support Adrian, and that’s the most important thing right now is to support him through his legal and personal matters. But we also want to make sure that we get this right as of today.”

Checkered history

Peterson isn’t the only NFL player who has been in trouble and had his future placed in limbo. For example, former Rams defensive end Leonard Little and Browns receiver Donte Stallworth killed people while driving drunk. Both returned, Little with his own team and Stallworth with three different teams over three seasons.

Peterson isn’t even the only face-of-the-NFL player to confront this question in the past decade. In 2006, then-Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was the league’s pariah for his role in abusing dogs. He went to jail and missed two seasons but ended up back in the NFL, first with the Eagles and now with the Jets.

Of course, the league became a different place on Sept. 8 when TMZ released the elevator photo of then-Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée with a punch. The backlash from that video and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admittedly botching Rice’s initial punishment already has led the league to install harsher punishments for future offenders.

“I think Adrian most definitely will play somewhere in the NFL again,” Felton said. “And I think he deserves to. Whether he has to answer to something that he did and learn from it like some other guys have before him, I think he will play again. I just don’t know if it will be here.”

The great unknown

Peterson has many things working against his return to the Vikings that go beyond a sudden and powerfully toxic presence that caused key sponsors, Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken to turn on the team when it appeared he would play on Sunday at New Orleans.

First of all, the Vikings, according to Spielman, are committed to keeping Peterson on the exempt list until the legal system runs its course. And, at this point, the prosecutor in the case has said that a trial isn’t expected until next year.

Asked if Peterson was done for the year, Spielman said, “We don’t know, as of today.”

“[A trial for 2015] is where it’s scheduled today,” he said. “So under that assumption, what we said in our statement is that until these legal matters are resolved he will remain on this exemption list.”

Spielman said the team has no intention of releasing Peterson from the exempt list. Releasing him before next season would save the team $13 million in salary cap space and create only $2.4 million in dead money against the cap in 2015. There is no dead money in the final two years of the deal.

“I can’t help but think about just how sad it is,” Felton said. “He’s meant a lot to this organization. He’s done a lot in the community, which trumps some of the things he’s done on the field. It’s so disappointing. I wish it wasn’t the case.”