Jerome Felton has been out in front of Adrian Peterson on the football field hundreds of times blocking for him. On Monday, he was doing the same in the locker room, taking question after question head-on regarding Peterson’s legal troubles.
Like all of his Minnesota Vikings teammates that made themselves available to talk publicly Monday, Felton said he supports Peterson while he is going through the legal process of facing charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said Peterson struck his 4-year-old son with a “switch,” a tree branch stripped of leaves but was using discipline similar to what he received as a child.
The Vikings deactivated Peterson Sunday after he flew to Texas and posted $15,000 bond and was released. Peterson flew back to Minnesota after that but was not with the team over the weekend. On Monday, the team announced that Peterson would practice this week and is “expected” to play on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
“I know he was hurting a lot that he couldn’t be with us Sunday. I’m sure he’s glad to be back,” said Felton, who said he texted Peterson over the weekend and gave him “five” upon his return to the Vikings’ Winter Park practice facility on Monday.
Peterson was with the team Monday but not made available to the media for comment. Instead, he released a statement through his agent.
“I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser,” Peterson said in the statement. “I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day.
“I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.”
Peterson said he has met with a psychologist and now realizes there are alternative forms of discipline that might be better than using a switch.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman addressed the media Monday before head coach Mike Zimmer’s normal day-after-a-game news conference and said the team is letting the legal process play out. They deactivated Peterson for Sunday, Spielman said, because they didn’t have all the information they desired when they deactivated him on Friday.
The issue of corporal punishment in disciplining a child is becoming a cultural debate and is legal in Texas, but the extent of the discipline will be the crux of the case, according to Montgomery County assistant district attorney Phil Grant.
Peterson is facing an Oct. 8 hearing.
Hardin said in a statement issued Friday that Peterson was administering a discipline similar to the one he faced as a child growing up in Palestine, Texas.
Felton, whose hometown is Madisonville, Tenn., said he faced similar punishment growing up.
“I’m from the South so I probably got it a little worse than that growing up,” Felton said. “I guess people have different opinions so you’ll have to judge for yourself. Obviously I’ve probably had it a couple times. I’m from the South. Maybe it’s a little more common down there than up here.
“I feel like I’m a better person for it. I had direction under my family. My mother cared about me a lot and I know people that didn’t have parents that cared, that didn’t discipline them, and turned out a lot different than I did. That’s a personal judgment and some people will like it, some people won’t, so that’s just on them.”
Receiver Jarius Wright, raised in Warren, Ark., had a similar sentiment.
“Me personally, he didn’t do anything wrong,” Wright said. “So as long as we had him deactivated I don’t think it was too short.”
Peterson, the NFL’s 2012 NFL MVP after rushing for 2,097 yards and coming up just 8 yards short of the single-season rushing record, is well-known for his charitable endeavors in Texas and Minnesota.
He took mission trips to Africa in 2010 and 2011 while working with Starkey Hearing to provide hearing aids to disadvantaged children and adults. He also works with youth through his All Day Foundation and has been active in the Special Olympics of Minnesota Punt, Pass and Kick events at Winter Park.
“The Adrian I know does a lot of stuff for charity. He’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for special needs children, brings kids up here from Texas, gives them a dream and something to shoot for,” Felton said. “Brings kids from the inner cities, takes them to Dick’s Sporting Goods and spends thousands of dollars of his own money. So that’s the guy I know and I’m glad to have him back on the team.”
Wright said the team is prepared to handle the distraction of Peterson’s situation. The national media descended on Winter Park heavier they have since at least the days of Brett Favre signing with the team and being embroiled in a sexting scandal from his days with the New York Jets.
“We know what type of guy Adrian is,” Wright said. “All Adrian’s friends and family know what type of guy he is. So, the people outside of our team and outside of his family can say what they want, but we know what type of guy he is and what type of person Adrian is.”
They also know what kind of player he is and how much he can help the team on the field, but Spielman said that had nothing to do with the Vikings bringing Peterson back so soon. In earlier cases of violence, domestic or otherwise, the Vikings have been swift to either cut the players (Caleb King) or keep them away from the team while they dealt with the legal process (Chris Cook).
“I think you’ll get a lot of support for Adrian in here and I think reputation should play a big part, too,” Felton said. “I know what he does in the community and a lot of people around Minnesota know. I think that plays into it.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings teammates support Peterson’s return
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