Making a statement: Vikings ban Peterson until child-abuse case is resolved

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings indefinitely banned Adrian Peterson from all team activities on Wednesday and said they erred by welcoming their star running back to the team despite last week's indictment on child-abuse charges.

Photo by Jeff Curry/ USA TODAY

MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings indefinitely banned Adrian Peterson from all team activities on Wednesday and said they erred by welcoming their star running back to the team despite last week’s indictment on child-abuse charges.
“We made a mistake and we needed to get this right,” co-owner Zygi Wilf said at a news conference at Winter Park. “We embrace our role in the community and the responsibilities that go with it. … We have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children.”
Peterson is officially on the NFL’s exempt list, barring him from all team activity pending the outcome of his legal troubles. The decision came after several sponsors distanced themselves from the team in the wake of Monday’s reinstatement. Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., also criticized the decision, and Dayton - instrumental in helping the Vikings attain nearly $500 million in public money for a new stadium - called Peterson’s actions a “public embarrassment.”
Peterson, 29, is accused of beating his 4-year-old son with a switch in May, leaving marks and injuries that were reported to Texas authorities by a Minnesota doctor nearly a week after the incident. Peterson has acknowledged the act but said he was disciplining his child and didn’t mean to cause him harm.
After learning of the formal charges Friday, the Vikings deactivated Peterson for last Sunday’s home game against New England, a 30-7 loss at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. But the team reinstated him Monday and was planning to start him Sunday at New Orleans.
The first of several sponsors to get squeamish was the Radisson hotel chain, whose name had been on the banner behind the podium while Vikings personnel discussed Peterson and child abuse. The banner used Wednesday was without a sponsor’s logo.
Asked whether the decision to essentially suspend Peterson was a financial one, co-owner Mark Wilf said, “Absolutely not.”
“We value our partners, our sponsors, the community and especially our fans,” he added. “In the end, it really is about getting it right, and that’s what we wanted to do here. We made a mistake, and the main thing is we are getting it right.”
The team’s move could mean Peterson, the leading rusher in team history with 10,190 yards, has played his last game for the Vikings. Because his case is not expected to go to trial until next year, it seems unlikely he will be reinstated this season.
Peterson, earning $11.75 million this season, will continue to be paid while he is away from the team. His $12.75 million salary for next season is not guaranteed.
“We’re not going to have him, and we know that,” said fullback Jerome Felton. “It’s about other players raising their level of play, because let’s face it, he’s our best player.”
The Vikings announced their decision via email at 12:47 a.m. Wednesday. When asked why the release came out at that time, Mark Wilf said that’s when the Vikings determined they “got it right.”
It took approval from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to add Peterson to the exempt list. The NFL Players Association released a statement that said it was “voluntary” on Peterson’s part, but the Vikings didn’t fully rubber-stamp that assertion.
“We asked for the exemption, the commissioner’s exemption,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “Only the commissioner can grant that exemption. I know we worked very hard with Ben Dogra, his representative, and Adrian. I spent time with Adrian (on Tuesday) and … I believe the union and the NFL had also collaborated on this. We came up with what we thought was the best resolution for everybody.”
Peterson’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 8 in Montgomery County outside Houston. Zygi Wilf said Peterson’s time away from the team will allow the running back to “focus on his personal situation.”
“Adrian wants to continue his work in the NFL and contribute to his team and community,” Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement. “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.”
While most Minnesota players offered general support for Peterson on Wednesday, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn also claimed the Vikings were wrong for benching him before a legal resolution.
“I think he should be able to play football,” Munnerlyn said. “I really don’t get it.”
Munnerlyn said he hasn’t seen photos of serious wounds to Peterson’s 4-year-old son, which have been posted on several websites since the story broke Friday.
On Wednesday, Nike suspended a personal endorsement deal with Peterson.
Mark Wilf said it was difficult to judge the way the Vikings handled the situation, particularly the decision to reinstate him Monday.
“I don’t want to Monday-morning-quarterback what it was,” he said. “We constantly strive as an organization to do the right thing. It’s a fluid situation here and it’s an ongoing process.”
For the game against the Saints and beyond, the Vikings will have to make do with running backs Matt Asiata, rookie Jerick McKinnon and Joe Banyard, who have a combined NFL career total of 229 yards rushing. First-year coach Mike Zimmer, who met with his players Wednesday and told them to look forward, stressed it’s time now to get to work.
“What I do is I get in the film room,” Zimmer said. “I start working on what we have to do, start figuring out how we can get this team better. … We have a job to do and we get paid to do this.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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