Yotter: NFL controls Peterson’s football fate

The Vikings say they initiated contact with the NFL about Adrian Peterson’s future, but ultimately the decision is up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who now controls when Peterson’s exemption is up and could issue further discipline.

When money talks, even superstars walk.

That’s the shorthand fallout of the media circus and social awareness created by the Adrian Peterson saga that broke last Friday and has been escalating since.

In a statement received at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday, the Vikings announced that Peterson, indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, would be placed on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list, meaning he won’t be allowed around team activities but will continue to receive his $11.75 million salary for 2014 while out. It will also allow the Vikings to make a roster addition without permanently cutting ties with their star running back.

But this wasn’t exclusively the Vikings’ decision, even if they insist they initiated contact with the NFL offices about the idea.

According to the NFL player personnel policy, “The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances. The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit.”

And then the important part: “Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic. The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player’s time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List.”

Even if Peterson is taken off the exempt list, he could be facing a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy. So the situation is essentially out of the Vikings’ control. Peterson is on the exempt list and only NFL commissioner Roger Goodell – who has taken heat himself and admitted that his original two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice for punching his then-girlfriend was too light – has the authority to take Peterson off the exempt list, at which time a suspension could be in the mix.

In short, if Goodell wants to make a stern example out of Peterson, he has that ability.

The Vikings said the move will allow Peterson to concentrate on his legal matters, and his first court date is set for Oct. 8 in Montgomery County, Texas, where the child abuse charges were filed after Peterson was accused of spanking his son repeatedly with a switch. A statement from Peterson’s lawyer said Peterson enacted the same discipline he faced as a child.

But for those wondering about a potential plea deal that could bring Peterson to the Vikings in the next couple of weeks, that doesn’t appear likely. Hardin told the Star Tribune that plea deal proceedings haven’t begun and he expects the case to go to trial. Montgomery County assistant district attorney Phil Grant said a trial isn’t likely until 2015.

But the Vikings’ announcement on Monday that Peterson would be rejoining the team was met with heavy scrutiny. The Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship with the Vikings, and others followed suit. Nike, Papa John’s and other team sponsors made moves of varying degrees in pulling away from the team. The league also received pressure from sponsors like Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s to address the arrests of several high-profile players.

After heavy media criticism – at one point on Monday general manager Rick Spielman was asked what message it sends to abuse victims that the Vikings would allow Peterson to remain on the team – and after significant pushback from sponsors, the Vikings reversed course again, announcing his placement on the exempt list.

It was an ugly turn for the Vikings, who have been dealing with these sorts of issues more than most teams. The Vikings lead the league with 45 arrests since 2000, but most of those occurred between 2000 and 2006, according to Minnesota Public Radio. According to a New York Times report, the rate of NFL arrests peaked in the mid-2000s.

The outrage directed at NFL players who run afoul of the law may be justified, but there is an interesting statistic when placing it alongside the general population. According to USA Today, the 713 arrests going back nearly 15 years (and just before the Peterson arrest) means that about 2.5 percent of the players have had a “serious run-in” with the law in an average year. That is lower than the national average for men in that age range, according to a deadspin.com report.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said “you sign up for everything” when you become a head coach in the NFL and he would know. His former employer, the Cincinnati Bengals, were right behind the Vikings with 43 arrests from January 2000 until September 2014, the Times reported.

When news broke that Peterson was indicted, it took the Vikings less than two hours to announce that he would be deactivated for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, who routed the Vikings 30-7 at TCF Bank Stadium. But on Monday, the team announced that Peterson would be rejoining the team, with Zimmer calling it a decision made by ownership.

Wednesday’s packed press conference witnessed a reversal of Monday’s announcement.

“I’m not sure who exactly said it, but it’s never too late to get it right,” Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said. “And the fact we’re getting it right now, I think it’s best for all parties concerned – the Vikings, Adrian – to move forward. We have a game coming up this Sunday.”

So while the Vikings are saying they are making the right move, and admittedly consulted with the NFL on the decision, they weren’t the final decision to place Peterson on this exempt-commissioner’s permission list. Ultimately, that decision was up to Goodell.

And the decision on when to reinstate him remains in Goodell’s court.

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.

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