Vikings: Adrian Peterson won’t play until legal issues are resolved
(CNN) — The Minnesota Vikings made a mistake. And they want to “get things right.”
The two statements were repeated several times by owners and members of the team’s front office during a media day news conference Wednesday, the first 20 minutes of which were dominated by questions about star running back Adrian Peterson, who stands accused of felony child abuse in Texas.
“We made a mistake, and we needed to get this right,” co-owner Zygil Wilf said. “Our goal is to always make the decision we think is right.”
After Wilf left the podium, a reporter asked Wilf’s brother, co-owner Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and Kevin Warren, executive vice president of legal affairs, whether the team wanted to apologize to the boy that Peterson is charged with abusing or the boy’s mother.
There was a brief pause before Mark Wilf said, “Again, our focus is to get things right, and we support Adrian.”
The move to keep Peterson “away from all team activities” marked a change in course for the Vikings, which had earlier said that Peterson would practice this week and could play in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints
Peterson was placed on an exempt list, the team announced early Wednesday, so that he can deal with the felony child abuse charge stemming from the June discipline of his son, whom Peterson has said he never intended to injure.
Who put Peterson on the list?
While there was some initial confusion as to whether the Vikings placed him on the list or whether Peterson made the decision, Spielman clarified that at the news conference, explaining that only Commissioner Roger Goodell can place a player on the NFL’s exempt/commissioner’s permission list.
Warren made it a point to emphasize that the discussion about revisiting Peterson’s situation began with the Vikings, which conveyed its intentions to the NFL.
“This was a decision made by the Vikings,” he said.
Spielman said he met with Peterson on Tuesday, and while he declined to discuss the specifics of that conversation, he said the running back was “unselfish” and wanted to step away to “give the Vikings an opportunity to focus on football.”
Peterson will take a leave with pay until his legal issues are resolved.
“This is a good decision that will allow Adrian Peterson to resolve his personal situation and the Vikings to return the focus to the football field,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to CNN.
The NFL Personnel Policy explains the designation: “The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances. The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit.
“Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic. The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player’s time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List.”
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said his client wanted to continue to contribute to his team and the community, but that was possible only by resolving his case through the legal system and not “the court of public opinion.”
“Ultimately, it will be up to a judge and jury to decide this case, which is the way it should be. Ours is the greatest legal system in the world, and Adrian is confident that a just result will emerge once all the facts are presented,” the statement said.
Though the team deactivated him for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, the Vikings announced this week that Peterson would return to practice and be allowed to play Sunday. It was a short-lived decision, one the team would repeatedly call a mistake Wednesday.
“While we were trying to make a balanced decision (Monday), after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian,” said the Wednesday statement from the Wilf brothers. “We want to be clear: We have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right.”
Peterson is considered one of the best running backs in the NFL — if not the best. His absence was probably felt during the Vikings’ 30-7 loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
In 2011, the Oklahoma University product agreed to a lucrative contract, which NFL.com reported would be worth $100 million over a seven-year period.
But his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse since his indictment last week on a felony charge of causing bodily injury to his son.
On Tuesday, he lost one of his most significant endorsement deals when Castrol, a major producer of motor oil, pulled out.
Castrol used Peterson in commercials for its Edge performance oil product and on social media. Many recent social media posts of his likeness have been pulled down, and the commercials are no longer available on YouTube. His other major sponsor, Nike, said late last week it would stand by its athlete for the time being.
One of the team’s sponsors, the Radisson hotel chain, announced Monday night that it was suspending its “limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.”
Also, the website for Peterson’s All Day Foundation was taken offline after the charities represented on the site received “harassing” calls from gossip sites, said his philanthropic adviser, Bruce Richmond.
“We took the website offline because the charities that Adrian supports were getting calls from the media and were getting harassed by the media,” Richmond told CNN. “I spoke to one communication director saying she had received about a dozen calls today from the same gossip site.”
After his indictment last week, Peterson turned himself in to East Texas authorities Saturday and was released on a $15,000 bond. A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for October 8.
According to Texas law, people can be convicted of injury to a child if they cause bodily or mental injury “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence” or cause such harm by omission. The crime is punishable by up to two years in a state jail and a $1,000 fine.
Photos obtained by TMZ allegedly show Peterson’s son’s leg covered in marks that could have come from a switch, or thin tree branch. Some of the marks in the photo appeared to have broken the skin.
Authorities haven’t divulged the details of what led to the charge. But Peterson’s lawyer said the “charged conduct involves using a switch to spank his son,” explaining that his client did so while doling out discipline much like “he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.”
Hardin said that “Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”
Peterson defended himself Monday, saying he is “not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser.”
The developments came as CNN affiliate KHOU reported this week that Peterson allegedly abused another one of his children — a 4-year-old son.
Sources told KHOU that the mother of the child filed a complaint with Child Protective Services in Texas because she alleged that Peterson beat the child while he was visiting his father at his Houston-area home.
According to the report, text messages between Peterson and the boy’s mother show that Peterson admitted disciplining the child, but he says the child hit his head on a car seat in the process.
No charges were ever filed, according to KHOU.
CNN reached out to Child Protective Services but has not received a response. Hardin said Peterson denied the report.
“The allegation of another investigation into Adrian Peterson is simply not true. This is not a new allegation. It’s one that is unsubstantiated and was shopped around to authorities in two states over a year ago, and nothing came of it,” Hardin said. “An adult witness adamantly insists Adrian did nothing inappropriate with his son.”