Adrian Peterson has survived much in his nearly 30 years. This time, it might not be up to him.
Early in his life, there was the death of his own brother, who was hit by a car while riding his bike in the presence of Adrian. There was the incarceration of his father Nelson. There was the collarbone injury months before he would be drafted.
Once with the Vikings, there was the charge of misdemeanor resisting arrest that was eventually dropped in what appeared to be a case of an overzealous cop. There was the torn ACL that proved to be his shining moment for inspiration for rehabilitating athletes everywhere, coming back from December surgery in 2011 to being named the MVP of the league a little more than a year later and 8 yards shy of the NFL single-season rushing record. And there was the death of his son last year only months after finding out he was the boy’s father.
In all those instances, Peterson forged an impeccable spirit of fortitude. He doesn’t show weakness on the field and never showed it publicly off the field.
This time, however, is different. His latest challenge was brought on by himself and the outcome is largely out of his hands.
His superhuman will or physical skill won’t matter if the charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child end up with a trial. At that point, it will come down to police reports, physical evidence, testimony and trying to discern, if convicted, whether jail time is the more appropriate approach than an education program.
Even if it does reach trial and Peterson is convicted, he could avoid jail time, according to the Montgomery County (Texas) assistant district attorney Phil Grant, if Peterson doesn’t have a previous criminal record. Probation in that case could be an option.
However, the greater threat to Peterson’s goal to chase down Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record could be the NFL. After admitting to botching the initial Ray Rice suspension with only a two-game suspension, this could be the NFL’s chance to display how tough it is for violations of the league’s personal conduct penalty, and they don’t even have to wait to for the legal process to play itself out.
Only a couple hours after Peterson was in the Minnesota Vikings locker room Friday afternoon and seemingly in good spirits, his indictment in the child injury case became public. About 12 hours later, he was in Texas turning himself in to authorities there and posting $15,000 bond.
To know Peterson, or think you know him, the statement issued by his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, made perfect sense.
“Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas,” the statement read.
“Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours. Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”
The vultures and generalists who lazily want to heap venom on NFL players were quick to respond and condemn, especially given the state of the NFL in an epic week of news that was supposed to revolve around the opening of the season. Instead, the week started with the release of a video showing Rice knocking out his then-girlfriend/now-wife in a casino elevator and ended with the charges against Peterson going public.
Yet a New York Times articles posted on Friday refuted the assumptions of the general public. Citing statistics from USA Today arrest records from NFL players over the last 15 years, “the 713 arrests mean that 2.53 percent of players have had a serious run-in with the law in an average year. That may sound bad, but the arrest rate is lower than the national average for men in that age range.”
With Peterson, there is a bigger picture.
Just last month, he was on the training camp practice field at Minnesota State after a night practice catching another one of his sons, Adrian Jr., in his arms, raising him to eye level for a big hug and numerous kisses. That is the “loving father” that any one of the thousands of fans in attendance could have seen several minutes after practice ended.
But according to a report by Sports Radio 610 in Houston, based off information from the police report, Peterson was up-front with police when asked about the incident, admitting he gave a “whooping” to the 4-year-old son and wished the boy had cried so he would have known the “switch” was doing more damage than intended.
So Hardin is right on two accounts: First, based on that report, it appears that Peterson was and is cooperating fully with authorities, making sure he turned himself in down in Texas less than 12 hours after the indictment became public. Second, also based on the report, Peterson’s form of discipline appears to have been derived from how he was disciplined as a child.
Peterson has always been accountable. He addressed the press after injuries and other incidents, including the death of a son who was abused by the boyfriend of the child’s mother in South Dakota.
His cooperation, both with the authorities and his reported communication with the boy’s mother, would seem to indicate he didn’t feel his actions were criminal. That doesn’t mean they aren’t, but if that is the kind of discipline he received as a child and felt it was beneficial to his upbringing, there is a greater context that has to be taken into consideration.
We don’t know what the outcome will be, other than there are two levels of potential discipline Peterson will be facing – a potential legal trial and the league’s own investigation under the personal conduct penalty.
In most respects, they are independent of each other. Peterson could survive one but have the other take him out of the game for an extended period.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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