The argument can be made, despite his reported reservations, that the best thing for Adrian Peterson is to return to the Vikings.
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By Matt Chatham
Football By Football was founded to give fans a player's point of view — insight into the game that actually comes from, ya know … in. As a matter of probability, unless there's compelling reason to do otherwise, we're usually going to err on the side of the player in any debate or piece of news.
We understand the player's side of the table best. To put it bluntly, players give pieces of their bodies for public entertainment, albeit for significant compensation. We're seeing more and more that the player is fungible … replaceable at a moment's notice. With that in mind, “what's best for the player” is the default position at FBF.
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That said, the Adrian Peterson child abuse situation is a whole other animal. The gory details are what they are — we've all heard them countless times at this point. Punishment was well deserved. Punishment was given. Punishment was served.
Every time Peterson is in the headlines now for anything other than carrying a football, it's not a good thing. Maybe returning to Minnesota isn't the “best” thing for Peterson, but that's beside the point. Peterson needs to return to the Vikings — the team he's under contract with — and just play football.
Peterson, with the aid of the NFLPA, did the right thing in challenging the NFL on it's CBA-bustin' attempts to indefinitely suspend him. With that in the past, I don't see how anything short of quietly returning to play with the team he's under contract with helps reintegrate himself into the league.
The last several weeks we've heard a number of news items on Peterson and his agent arguing with Vikings management, ownership recruiting trips in Texas to break bread with the player and smooth things over, recent leaked refusals to have dinner, speculation about new teams Peterson would rather play for that would supposedly be better for Adrian, and on and on.
The fact remains Peterson abused his child and didn't get to play the game he's so great at because of the abuse. Every one of these new — and very public — spats puts that reminder back in the public forefront. It's not helping anyone.
If there's tension in Minnesota … well, duh. I'm not sure if there is a “right” way to deal with something like that. In the Vikings' defense, Peterson isn't the only player with an ugly recent incident — from Ray Rice, to Ray McDonald, to Greg Hardy — who still is being offered a second chance with their original team.
For that, a certain amount of leash is reasonable from the player — even if you aren't in love with everything the team did throughout the process. As a player, you don't always get everything you want. All conditions aren't necessarily to your exact personal preference in most playing situations. That's more the norm than the exception.
For a player, once the football begins, what's going on in management couldn't (or at least shouldn't) be further from your mind. How do you feel about your owner or some other person in the building? Who cares? If the locker room and coaching staff will welcome you back with an opportunity to win back good grace, you need to grab it. Especially since it's a locker room full of guys your actions left hanging a short time ago.
From a purely football standpoint, the Vikings are still a great fit. They have a truly promising young quarterback — a situation Peterson hasn't really had since his time in Minny — to take the pressure off him carrying the load of the offense. His head coach is well-respected around the NFL. And you still get to play as the best compensated runner in the game.
Obviously, Peterson can try to exploit some leverage to get exactly what he wants elsewhere. But sometimes getting exactly what you want isn't what it's all about.
The Greg Hardy signing and angry opposition reaction to his new deal in Dallas should stand as a prime example that the grass isn't always greener somewhere else. The pressure Hardy will play under will be extreme, and it should be no surprise if a year from now Hardy isn't in Dallas.
Minnesota and its fans are willing to give you a second chance. Take it. And make the most of it. The NFL universe has a habit of falling out of love with running backs in a hot minute anyhow. At this point, being thankful that you're still welcome should be the first thought.
Going back to Minnesota might not be the easiest thing for Peterson, but it's the right thing to do. From this point forward, making it abundantly clear that you're appreciative of any grace from the organization and finished with the public wooing spectacle should be the #1 priority for Peterson. Sometimes the best place for your ego is your back pocket.
As Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer made clear at the end of last week, “Adrian is under contract with us and we’re excited to get him back here with his teammates and get him back playing.”
There really shouldn't be much more to it than that.
The best way to make amends is to show you're eager to prove you've learned your lesson and are ready to help your teammates again by toting their rock.
What's best for the player is usually the most important thing. Except when it's not. Sometimes, keeping it simple and just plowing forward is the only “get back on track” path worth considering.