Peterson to fix relationship with son, but may need 'fresh start' in NFL
Adrian Peterson's biggest goal is not to resurrect his NFL career, but rather to repair his relationship with the 4-year-old son he injured while spanking him, and vows "I won't ever use a switch again."
That's the message the Minnesota Vikings star expressed Thursday in an interview with USA Today, his first since being indicted in September and suspended without pay for at least the remainder of this season earlier this week.
"I won't ever use a switch again," Peterson said. "There's different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There's so many different ways to discipline your kids."
Peterson also said he intends to "sit down with Roger," referring to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and discuss his suspension and the reasons Goodell publicly gave for it.
"Don't say that I'm not remorseful, because in my statement, I showed that I was remorseful," Peterson said. "I regretted everything that took place. I love my child, more than anyone could ever imagine."
He said he didn't attend his hearing with Goodell "because I didn't want to go into a situation blind. I didn't know what to expect. Who's going to be there? Who will I be meeting with? What details are we going to get into?"
Peterson said he has been seeing a therapist and meeting a pastor certified in counseling near his Houston-area home.
"No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg," said Peterson, who has fathered six children by six different women and was married July 19. "No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn't mean to do this to you and how sorry I was."
Peterson said that through all the condemnation and judgment, he's taken heart in the fact that his son still loves him unconditionally. He hopes to soon see the boy, who hasn't seen his dad in five months.
Peterson also hopes to reunite with his Vikings teammates, but says if his career in Minnesota is over, "then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."
"I know who loves me," he added. "The coaches and the players, it's not going to be a problem. I've felt so much support from those guys. The organization, I know there's people in the organization that support me and there's people that I know internally that has not been supporting me."
So, he concluded, "maybe it's best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else."
The NFL will not consider Peterson for reinstatement before April 15, 2015 for violating the personal conduct policy.
The NFL players union on Thursday appealed the league's suspension of Adrian Peterson and demanded an independent, neutral arbitrator hears the case. In a letter to its player representatives and executive committee obtained by The Associated Press, the NFLPA called Goodell's punishment ''unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful.''
The union also accused Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, of telling Peterson that the games he missed on a special exempt list would count as time served toward a suspension. League officials declined comment to the AP.
"The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision," Goodell said in a letter to Peterson. "Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy."
League spokesman Brian McCarthy said by email the stay on the exempt list was taken into account.
"There were aggravating circumstances that led to the discipline announced," McCarthy said.
Peterson's salary for the season was $11.75 million. He will keep the pay accrued while on the exempt list.
Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press he and his client were scheduled for a conference call Tuesday with the NFLPA to discuss options.
"We look forward to filing an immediate appeal and coming to a resolution for Adrian Peterson that would be appropriate under the circumstances," Dogra said.
The Vikings don't practice Tuesdays. The organization issued a brief statement: "We respect the league's decision and will have no further comment at this time."
The NFLPA's statement regarding Peterson's appeal claimed an unnamed NFL executive told Peterson the nine games he spent on the commissioner's exempt list would count as "time served" toward his suspension. The implication from the union was the league did not honor that request by suspending Peterson at least six games, the suggested standard for a first-time domestic-violence offender in Goodell's new policy outlined in a memo to owners in late August.
An NFL spokesman did not deny the NFLPA's claim and stated, "There were aggravating circumstances in this case. The time he missed on paid leave was taken into account in the discipline."
That means the NFL was considering a longer suspension for Peterson. In Goodell's August memo to owners, he wrote he would consider a punishment longer than six games for cases involving "mitigating factors." One of those factors was an act that occurred "in the presence of a child." There is no specific language referring to acts committed on a child, though Goodell strongly rebuked Peterson's disciplining his son in his letter to Peterson.
"First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old," Goodell said in the letter. "The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement —none of those options is realistically available to a 4-year-old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father."
The league said Saturday that Peterson declined to meet about his case Friday, so it proceeded with a review without him. The NFL also said it was unwilling to postpone the hearing beyond this week, citing the NFL Players Association's stated desire to resolve the situation promptly.
The Vikings (4-6) have six games left this season. The league's enhanced policy calls for a six-game suspension for first offenses of assault, battery or domestic violence. Aggravating circumstances warrant higher levels of discipline, and Goodell's letter to Peterson spelled that out.
Peterson pleaded no contest in Texas on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault, down from a felony charge of child abuse for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. He received what's essentially two years of probation, plus a $4,000 fine and requirement to complete parenting classes and 80 hours of community service.
The boy suffered cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, back and one of his testicles, according to court records, and backlash from the public was strong. One major Vikings sponsor suspended its partnership, other corporations expressed concerns to the team and the league, and Peterson was dropped as an endorser of several brands.
The Vikings first declared on Sept. 15 that Peterson would remain with the team to give him his due process in the legal system. Then they reversed course about 36 hours later, announcing that commissioner Roger Goodell agreed to issue his special roster exemption. Peterson continued to draw his weekly in-season salary of more than $690,000.
Peterson was indicted Sept. 12. He was held out of Minnesota's game on Sept. 14 and placed on the commissioner's exempt list Sept. 16. After his plea freed him from the court system, assuming fulfillment of probation terms, the union demanded in a letter to the league that Peterson be allowed to rejoin the Vikings immediately until any discipline had been determined. But the NFL responded by declaring Peterson would remain on paid leave until the process is completed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.