Vikings general manager Rick Spielman (left) speaks as owner/chairman Mark Wilf (center) and executive vice president-legal affairs Kevin Warren listen during a news conference about Adrian Peterson on Wednesday.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Once the face of the franchise and one of the biggest stars in the NFL, Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson’s future with the team is clouded after the team’s owners admitted a mistake and placed the franchise’s all-time leading rusher on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list while he attends to legal matters on charges of injury to a child.
The team had decided to reinstate Peterson on Monday after he was deactivated for last week’s game, but ownership reversed course early Wednesday morning and said Peterson will remain away from the team while his legal situation plays out in Montgomery County, Texas.
"We made a mistake and we needed to get this right," Vikings’ owner and chairman Zygi Wilf said Wednesday, reading a statement. "We embrace our role in the community and the responsibilities that go with it. It is important to always listen to our fans, the community and our sponsors. Our goal is to always make the decision we feel is right for the Minnesota Vikings."
The agreement came after the Vikings learned of the special exemption provided by only by commissioner approval, and communication between Peterson, his agent Ben Dogra and the NFL Players’ Association.
A statement released by the players’ Association said Peterson agreed to take the voluntary leave with pay. Peterson will be paid his weekly $691,177 salary during his absence.
Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, released a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"Adrian wants to continue his work in the NFL and contribute to his team and community," Hardin said. "In order to do so, he is prepared to resolve this matter in the appropriate legal forum rather than the court of public opinion. I have spent my entire career asking people to wait until all the facts are in, and I’m doing so again today.
"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."
Peterson’s first court hearing will be Oct. 8 and a district attorney in Montgomery County said a trial might not occur until early 2015.
In changing direction from their Monday declaration that Peterson would be able to practice and play in this week’s game at New Orleans, the Vikings said Peterson won’t return to the team until his legal situation has been resolved.
"We are going to let the legal process and let his personal matters take care of themselves and he will remain on this exempt list until that is accomplished," general manager Rick Spielman said.
Asked if Peterson, 29, would play again this season, Spielman said: "Our focus right now, today, is to get this right. We admitted making a mistake and we want to get this right, and we want to support Adrian. That’s the most important thing right now, is to support him through his legal and his personal matters. But we also want to make sure this is the right, that we get this right as of today."
Spielman was asked if the Vikings gave consideration to releasing Peterson.
"Everybody asks, would you have cut him," Spielman said. "We felt after we reviewed everything, this was the best possible solution."
Not everyone within the organization agreed with the decision. Speaking in the locker room, veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn felt Peterson has been treated unfairly.
"I don’t think it’s fair at all," Munnerlyn said. "I think he should be able to play. He hasn’t been convicted of anything. All these allegations or this and that, pictures out, but he hasn’t been convicted of nothing. With crimes and stuff, you’re innocent until you’re convicted guilty and I don’t think he’s guilty of nothing yet.
I don’t think it’s fair at all. I think (Peterson) should be able to play. He hasn’t been convicted of anything.
Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn
"I think he should be able to play football. I really don’t get it. At the end of the day I know they came up with the decision, but I really don’t get it. I’m just going to stick to playing football and do what I know."
Munnerlyn, who grew up in a rough part of Mobile, Ala., said he was disciplined in a similar manner growing up.
"Everything he did, I didn’t see nothing wrong with it," Munnerlyn said. "My mom, she disciplined me the same way and it got me to this point. I’m in the NFL and I know how to behave."
The Vikings have had a chance to review the report on the allegations against Peterson and will continue to monitor the situation as they determine Peterson’s future with the team.
"During this entire process, the next hearing update, all the way up until there’s a trial, we will continually monitor the situation and gather any and all information as we can," said Kevin Warren, the team’s vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer. "Yes, we worked very hard and very diligently with varied sources, with multiple sources, to make sure that we gathered information to be able to consider it to make the best possible decision. And as Mark said, all along our whole goal was to make sure that we did everything that we possibly could to make the best possible decision and to get it right."
Peterson’s case will be reviewed by the NFL under the league’s personal conduct policy.
"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," the league said through a spokesman on Wednesday.
After the team announced the decision on Monday to reinstate Peterson, backlash started from fans, community leaders and sponsors.
Governor Mark Dayton and Minnesota Senator Al Franken each spoke out against the decision to let Peterson participate. Radisson, a locally-based team sponsor, suspended its sponsorship with the team. Multiple reports stated Nike pulled Adrian Peterson jerseys from stores in the Twin Cities on Tuesday.
Owner and president Mark Wilf said "absolutely not" when asked if the team changed direction because of pressure from sponsors.
"We appreciate our fans, men and women alike, our sponsors and the community," Mark Wilf said. "We hear their input. But in the end, we as ownership, we as a franchise, we have to make sure that our reputation and the team was moving in the right direction. We felt, in the end, that this was the right decision. We made a mistake and we are doing the right thing."
Mark Wilf wouldn’t comment when asked if the team underestimated the backlash of reinstating Peterson.
"I don’t want to Monday morning quarterback what it was," Wilf said. "The main thing is we constantly strive as an organization to do the right thing. It’s a fluid situation here and an ongoing process, so we’re constantly talking and thinking about these things. We realize there is a lot of interested groups in this, especially as it relates to the Vikings fans, the community and the sponsors, so in the end, the goal is always for us to be a first-class organization and to get it right. And we feel we’ve done that."
Peterson was indicted in Montgomery County, Texas, just north of Houston where he lives in the offseason, on charges of injury to a child, stemming from an incident in May when he disciplined a son with a "switch." The son, whose mother lives in Minnesota, was visiting Peterson and the injuries were discovered during a routine doctor’s appointment in Minnesota.
Peterson turned himself in early Saturday morning and posted a $15,000 bond before returning to Minnesota. Peterson doesn’t deny the incident occurred, but said he never meant to harm his son.
"I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser," Peterson said in a statement Monday. "I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day."