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Peterson: ‘I felt like I got a fair hearing’

MINNEAPOLIS -- In his first public appearance in Minnesota since a child-abuse charge derailed his career, Adrian Peterson was cheered by a small but loud group of Vikings fans Friday as his fight for NFL reinstatement reached the finish line.

MINNEAPOLIS - In his first public appearance in Minnesota since a child-abuse charge derailed his career, Adrian Peterson was cheered by a small but loud group of Vikings fans Friday as his fight for NFL reinstatement reached the finish line.
The suspended running back exited the Minneapolis courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge David Doty smiling and holding hands with his wife, Ashley, following a one-hour hearing without a resolution.
He is suing the NFL to rejoin the Vikings’ active roster after Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him in November and ruled he could not apply for reinstatement until April 15.
“I felt like I got a fair hearing, for once,” Peterson told reporters. “I just really appreciate all the support from my fans.It feels good to be in Minnesota.”
Peterson declined to speculate about his chances.
“I don’t know. Both parties had good arguments. We’ll see,” he said.
He also was asked whether he wants to return to the Vikings after the team banished him to a rarely used exemption list and accepted Goodell’s punishment, which ultimately sidelined him for all but one game in 2014.
“Of course,” Peterson said into the microphones outside the downtown courthouse.
Cheers erupted.
“Come back! We need you!” one fan yelled.
Doty said he would take the case under advisement but did not indicate when he would uphold or overturn arbitrator Harold Henderson’ award affirming Goodell’s suspension - or send the case back to Henderson with instructions.
NFL Players Association lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, arguing on Peterson’s behalf, said he expected Doty to rule “promptly,” or at least before the new league year starts March 10.
Peterson is under contract with the Vikings and is scheduled to earn $12.75 million in 2015. However, the team already has paid out $36 million in guarantees, and it could ask Peterson to accept a pay cut or a restructured deal to mitigate a hefty salary cap hit for a running back who turns 30 next month.
The union is suing the league on behalf of Peterson, whose exile is the forefront of a broader power struggle between the union and Goodell.
If Doty decides in favor of the league, Peterson will not appeal, according to a person with direct knowledge.
At stake is Goodell’s authority to punish players under the Personal Conduct Policy that owners strengthened in August following the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal.
Peterson claims the commissioner overreached his powers and retroactively suspended him 15 games over a standard two-game ban for previous cases involving domestic violence.
Goodell punished him under a conduct policy owners enhanced in August. Peterson was charged with felony child abuse for whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch in May when the boy visited his house outside Houston.
He eventually plea bargained down to misdemeanor reckless assault and was sentenced Nov. 4 to two years’ probation in Texas - two weeks before Goodell suspended him.
“You cannot apply a new policy to old behavior,” Kessler argued.
The NFLPA also contends that Henderson, a former league executive, was biased and that Goodell cannot mandate psychological counseling by league-appointed physicians.
“As if the NFL were a sentencing judge,” Kessler argued. “The problem is the collective bargaining agreement does not give the NFL that authority.”
The NFL maintains Goodell is empowered to impose broad discipline in the interests of the league, that Peterson received due process and the courts have no jurisdiction to intervene in its collectively bargained policy.
League attorney Daniel Nash said the union is re-litigating issues Henderson already decided. He also pushed back against allegations that Henderson was not impartial because he once worked for the NFL.
“There’s no evidence Mr. Henderson was biased. They’ve admitted they have none,” Nash said.
Doty quizzed Nash about whether Goodell “ignored” precedent of two-game suspensions for similar cases.
The judge also asked about a November telephone conversation Peterson taped between him and league executive Troy Vincent in which Peterson concluded he would only be suspended for two games.
“Adrian Peterson has given statements that he relied on that as something that was going to happen,” Doty said. “That he agreed to certain penalties.”
Nash said Henderson concluded Vincent had not guaranteed Peterson anything and that the issue for Doty to decide is not the punishment but whether the arbitrator acted within the collective bargaining agreement.
“I don’t think you could argue that Mr. Henderson’s decision wasn’t thoughtful,” Nash said. “There’s no evidence Mr. Peterson did anything reliant on what he was told by Mr. Vincent.”
The Vikings are prohibited from communicating with Peterson until he is reinstated. General manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have said publicly that they want the 2012 NFL MVP back next season.
Kevin Warren, the team’s executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer, attended the hearing, watching from the back row of the packed courtroom.
He declined to comment about the case.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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