Reports that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is in talks to reach a plea deal in his child abuse case has brought up the possibility that Peterson could be able to return to the team before the end of the season.
Peterson is currently on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list, and only NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to remove him from that list. But the NFL could also weigh in with a possible suspension of Peterson if he does reach a plea deal.
Still, two Vikings players in the offensive backfield said Peterson would be a welcome (back) addition to the team.
Fullback Jerome Felton, who made it to the Pro Bowl blocking for Peterson’s 2,097-yard season, said he has followed the news on Peterson, mostly through media reports. But Felton has also texted with Peterson in the past couple weeks.
“I hope he will be (back). We’ll be excited if we get him back,” Felton said. “That’ll bit a big bonus. He’s obviously one of the top players in the world. That’ll be exciting if we can get him back.”
Jerick McKinnon, who has essentially split time with Matt Asiata in the dual role of replacing Peterson, said Peterson has remained in contact with players during his time away from the facility and thinks that speaks to Peterson’s leadership qualities.
“Everybody knows he’s a leader and what type of guy he is, regardless of what people say. He’s still a leader without even being in the locker room,” McKinnon said. “I think that speaks volumes about his character and other qualities that he has.”
Peterson played in the first game of the season before his indictment on child abuse charges for disciplining one of his 4-year-old sons with a wooden switch, something Peterson admitted to authorities investigating the incident in Texas.
A plea deal could come as soon as Tuesday at a pretrial hearing, where Peterson is scheduled to appear in court in Montgomery County, Texas. If the case goes to trial, that is scheduled to begin Dec. 1.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday he hasn’t paid much attention to the progress of the Peterson case. But Zimmer also said he can only judge Peterson by how he has acted around the team.
“I only go by what I see. Adrian has always been great with me. He’s been top-notch, first-class, did everything I asked him to do,” Zimmer said. “I’m not going to speculate on what happens, ‘if’ and ‘when’ and all this. When and if it happens, then I’ll be glad to talk to you about it.”
In the season opener, Peterson rushed 21 times for 75 yards, a 3.6-yard average, against the St. Louis Rams. Over his career, Peterson has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and has six seasons of 1,200 yards or more.
McKinnon has produced a 5.0-yard average in the first nine games of his career, gaining 446 yards in 90 carries, with all but five of those carries coming in the last six weeks.
The rookie running back was diplomatic when asked about the possibility of the veteran returning.
“I think we’d be happy to have him back. He’s a leader on this team,” McKinnon said. “He’s done a lot for this team and this organization over the past years. I think it would be good for the team having his leadership back and of course his ability and talent and everything he can do as well.”
McKinnon said if Peterson does return he would be the starting running back immediately, and Felton said Peterson is staying strong.
“He’s standing strong and doing as good as he can despite the circumstances,” Felton said, “but I showed him my support.”
Teammates would welcome Peterson’s return
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