Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson having career season just off from scandal

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Adrian Peterson is having one of his best NFL seasons. For the once-embattled Minnesota Vikings running back, the timing couldn't be better.Peterson missed the final 15 games of last season because of a series of suspension...

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, left, runs past Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen in the third quarter of their game Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The Vikings won 20-10. (Photo by Jason Getz / USA TODAY Sports)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Adrian Peterson is having one of his best NFL seasons. For the once-embattled Minnesota Vikings running back, the timing couldn’t be better.
Peterson missed the final 15 games of last season because of a series of suspensions related to a child-abuse arrest. Because he leads the NFL in rushing with 1,164 yards for the NFC North-leading Vikings, those troubles seem far behind him.
“What really quiets people down a lot is when you play well,” said hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon, now a radio analyst for the Vikings’ opponent Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks.
Peterson was charged with a felony for hitting his then 4-year-old son with a wooden switch in May 2014. The incident ignited a wave of negative publicity for Peterson, the Vikings and the NFL that didn’t ebb until the running back rejoined the team for offseason workouts last spring.
While playing for the Vikings in 1995, Moon was arrested for allegedly scratching, hitting and choking his then-wife Felicia. He was acquitted after his wife testified she initiated the violence and that he was trying to restrain her.
While the verdicts in the cases were different - Peterson pleaded no-contest to a misdemeanor of reckless assault - Moon feels he has some insight into Peterson’s experience.
“It’s really tough because your life is so public when you’re a professional athlete,” Moon said. “All the good things that you do are publicized, but if you do anything that is deemed bad, it’s going to be publicized, as well. So it just opens up yourself for criticism and for judgment from people. Some people, even though you might be innocent, are going to think that maybe you’re guilty.”
Rusty Hardin, who represented Peterson after he was indicted in September 2014 in suburban Houston, also represented Moon in his case.
“When you play well, and when your team is playing well, it ... keeps people’s minds off of his personal life,” Moon said. “It’s a great bounce-back year for him.”
Peterson, 30, is on pace to average more than 100 yards a game for the third time in his nine-year career. On Thursday, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November and picked up a second FedEx Ground Player of Week honor in three weeks.
He said he doesn’t think about whether his success on the field has softened his image.
“I really don’t look at it the way other people look at it,” he said. “I look at it in the light as there’s a lot of things, even outside of what happened last year, in my life that I am unrooting and changing in so many different ways for the betterment for me as a man and for my family, as well.
“The No. 1 key for me in doing that is keeping God first and … moving forward and not dwelling on things that people have to say about me or their opinion of me.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose six-game suspension of Peterson was struck down by a federal judge, last month called Peterson a “wonderful young man” who took the incident “seriously and said, ‘I want to do better.’”
Moon said it’s difficult for anyone in the public eye to have their life on display.
“You have to be able to deal with it, and I think we all live under the same standard,” he said. “We all just have to be very careful about what we do. ... I’m glad everything worked out and Adrian is back on the right track a lot of that stuff is behind him.’’
Peterson was named player of the month after carrying 117 times for 634 yards in November. He won the award in December 2012 during a 2,097-yard rushing season.
He has six 100-yard rushing games this season, and his eight touchdowns to give him 99 for his career. On Sunday, he can become the 23rd player in NFL history to score 100.
“It’s pretty cool, but it’s not going to be like, ‘Wow! You got a hundred touchdowns,’ ” he said.
Peterson has carried 237 times, putting him on pace for the third-most seasonal attempts in his career. Nevertheless, he insists his body feels good and he sought to put at least one positive spin on missing nearly all of last season.
“Any time you can take away 425 hits off your body, it’s going to be good for you, especially for a 30-year-old back, as they say,” he said. “It gave my body time to heal and recover. Mentally and physically, it was good for the body.”
The resulting performance has been good for his image, as well.
“It didn’t really surprise me that he’s sitting out and coming back and plays this well,” Vikings tackle Matt Kalil said. “It’s because we’re winning, too. Everything’s good when you’re winning.”

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