The Minnesota Vikings have repeatedly praised Adrian Peterson during the offseason, with his status slowly moving toward resolution.
Peterson hasn’t had the same warmth for the Vikings.
The NFL returned the star running back to the exempt list Thursday after a federal judge ruled in his and the NFL Players Association’s favor. They’ve been seeking dismissal of league arbitrator Harold Henderson’s denial of Peterson’s appeal of his suspension under the NFL’s divisive personal conduct policy.
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Peterson said Friday he was pleased by U.S. District Judge David Doty’s decision that the NFL immediately appealed.
”It is a positive step in protecting players’ rights and preserving due process for all players. It also brings me one step closer to getting back on the football field and playing the sport I love,” Peterson said in a statement issued through his agency. ”As I prepare for my return to football, I am still focused on my family and continue to work to become a better father every day. I want to express my gratitude for all of the support I have received from the fans, NFLPA, Jeffrey Kessler, and my agents Ben Dogra, Tracy Lartigue, and Mark Heligman of Relativity Sports.”
Kessler is the union’s lead lawyer who argued the case in Doty’s courtroom in Minneapolis three weeks ago. That’s about four blocks from the construction site of the team’s new stadium, where the surrounding fence is decorated with a purple mesh banner featuring pictures of several key players including Peterson.
Whether he’ll actually suit up for the Vikings there in 2016, or with them at their temporary home in 2015, remains a big question. Peterson glaringly skipped the Vikings in his list of thanks and made no mention of his future with the only team he has ever played for professionally.
”Any NFL team will be fortunate to have Adrian on its roster as he will consistently serve as a strong leader and impactful performer,” Dogra said in his statement.
General manager Rick Spielman, one of several high-ranking officials who have professed confidence in Peterson and his character and a desire for him to return, said last week that his expectation is that Peterson will be back with Minnesota. Peterson’s contract runs through 2017, carrying a $15.4 million salary cap hit for 2015, but the Vikings could cut him and owe him no more money and take only a $2.4 million hit to their salary cap this year. They could trade him starting March 10.
The NFL’s appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis has been set up with a briefing schedule that would call for a hearing between June 8-12, according to clerk of court Michael Gans. Currently, the NFL’s first written arguments will be due by April 8.
”It’ll be up to the parties if they want to move this more quickly and seek a hearing sooner than that,” Gans said.
Peterson’s suspension is supposed to last through at least April 15. The league said Thursday that Peterson’s status on the exempt list will be ”pending further proceedings” by Henderson or a determination by the 8th Circuit.
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