Vikings stuck playing waiting game for NFL’s decision on Peterson
Adrian Peterson (right) and his attorney Rusty Hardin speak to the media after pleading no contest to an assault charge last Tuesday. Peterson avoided jail time in a plea agreement to resolve his child abuse case.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – While the Minnesota Vikings returned from their bye without star running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL Players Association is trying to push the league for Minnesota’s all-time leading rusher to be reinstated.
The players’ union filed an "expedited, non-injury grievance" Monday on behalf of Peterson, who is still on the commissioner’s exempt list. Peterson can only be removed from the list by commissioner Roger Goodell, but agreed to the special exemption in September when he was charged with injuring his 4-year-old son from punishing the boy with a tree branch.
As part of the agreement signed on Sept. 18, the NFLPA says Peterson should be reinstated after finishing his case in court when he pleaded no contest last week to misdemeanor reckless assault.
Yet, the NFL has said it will review Peterson’s case under the personal conduct policy and he will remain inactive until the review has taken place.
"We asked the NFL to honor the terms of that agreement last week and as of now, they have failed to respond or comply," the NFLPA said in a statement Monday. "It is our obligation to protect all players’ rights, and we will pursue any and all breaches of any contract between a player and his team or the NFL."
Later on Monday, the league released its own statement in response.
"We have received the NFLPA’s grievance on behalf of Adrian Peterson," the NFL’s statement began. "We have honored our commitment to Mr. Peterson and the NFLPA not to process or impose any discipline until the criminal charges pending in Texas were resolved. When Mr. Peterson decided not to contest criminal charges, we promptly advised both him and the NFLPA that we were prepared to consider what, if any, discipline should now be imposed under the Personal Conduct Policy. We asked Mr. Peterson and his representatives, including the NFLPA, for relevant information. We have not received any of the requested information, but remain prepared to schedule a hearing and make a determination as quickly as possible based on as much information as available."
According to FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo, the collective bargaining agreement allows for four expedited grievances per year and both sides are supposed to work in "good faith" to do so before the next game.
Minnesota returns from a bye with a game at Chicago on Sunday.
"We support him, but the whole thing is out of our hands," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday.
Minnesota, at least for now, is deferring to the league in regard to Peterson’s status. Before Zimmer finished Monday’s practice and met with the media, the team released a statement.
"In regards to Adrian Peterson’s status with the Minnesota Vikings, at this time his potential reinstatement is under NFL guidelines," the statement reads. "As an organization, we respect and understand the league’s process. In the interim, our focus is on the team and preparing for this weekend’s game against the Bears."
Zimmer said the team hasn’t been provided a timetable for a decision by the league.
"We just prepare like he’s not going to be here, until we hear differently," Zimmer said.
Peterson has played one game this season, rushing for 75 yards in a season-opening, 34-6 win at St. Louis. He was paid while he remained away for the past nine weeks, though the league is still weighing further discipline.
Zimmer refused to speculate how the team might handle Peterson if he were reinstated.
"I’m not going to deal with the hypotheticals of what the NFL says, or the league says, it’s regarding the regulations and when those decisions are made," Zimmer said. "Then we can make decisions. Until then, really our hands are tied, there’s really nothing we can do about it, other than what I’ve said all along.
"We love the kid, he’s done everything I’ve asked him to do and we support him and we want him to get through this for him, then we will worry about all of the other things we have to deal with at that point in time."
In pleading no contest last week, Peterson is no longer facing any legal action. He was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and related court costs, and serve 80 hours of community service. As part of a plea agreement, Peterson is on a two-year probationary period.
The players association contends Peterson should be allowed to return to the team.
"Our union worked with the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian’s representatives on a mutual agreement pending the adjudication of his legal case," a statement from the NFLPA read last week. "Now that his legal matter is resolved, we believe it is Adrian’s right to be treated in a manner that is consistent with similar cases under our collective bargaining agreement. We will pursue any and all remedies if those rights are breached."
Players continued to preach support of Peterson and said the three-time All-Pro running back would be welcomed back to the team if reinstated.
"Definitely, we want him here, without a doubt," tackle Phil Loadholt said. "Really you just got to play. It’s not in our hands right now, so we let the people that take care of that, take care of it and we just have to prepare like we have been."
Receiver Greg Jennings said the team has to continue to proceed as it has the past nine weeks and that Peterson’s continued saga won’t be a distraction.
"Think we’ve been down this road, so guys are locked into what we need to get done," Jennings said. "If he walks through those doors, we’ll be excited. If he’s not, he hasn’t been here, so this is the expectation that we have, that we have to move on without him."