Peterson pleads no contest to reduced charge

Adrian Peterson pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault to avoid jail time.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of one count of Class A misdemeanor reckless assault at his pretrial hearing in Montgomery County, Texas on Tuesday.

Judge Kelly Case accepted the plea, setting up Peterson’s potential return to the NFL, although the league is saying it will wait until it has all the facts in the case before making a decision on how to move forward with Peterson. This Sunday is the Vikings’ bye week, with their next game Nov. 16 at Chicago.

The star running back was initially indicted on a charge of felony reckless or negligent injury to a child in September – he admitted to disciplining one of his 4-year-old sons with a wooden switch. He was eventually put on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, a status that requires him to remain away from all team activities but continue to get paid his $11.75 million base salary. He has missed the Vikings’ last eight games.

Only NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can take Peterson off the exempt list, and when that happens Peterson could still be facing a suspension from the league. Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told reporters that Peterson wants to get back to playing football.

Peterson also addressed reporters briefly outside the Texas courtroom.

“I truly regret this incident. I take full responsibility for my actions,” Peterson said. “I’m just glad this is over and I can put this behind me.”

Peterson’s plea comes with a fine of $4,000, 80 hours of community service (half of which will be served with a public service announcement), probation and potential parenting classes.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman declined to comment on any aspect of the Peterson situation on Tuesday.

“We’ll keep all our comments under the Adrian situation until it’s appropriate to speak and I’ll just leave it at that,” Spielman said. “… I’m probably not going to go any further on Adrian’s situation than what I just said.”

Spielman declined to even discuss the protocol after Peterson’s plea.

If Peterson does return to the team in the coming weeks, Vikings players say he owes them no explanation.

“I don’t think he needs to do anything. What he needs to do is just get his stuff figured out and taken care of,” veteran linebacker Chad Greenway said.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph said he has talked with Peterson a couple times since the indictment and said the veteran running back would be a welcome addition in the locker room.

“We all know the kind of person he is. We’ve stood behind him this whole time,” Rudolph said. “You’d be crazy not to welcome him back into that locker room. It would be a big pickup for this locker room being we have so many young guys. Anytime you can have a veteran back in that locker room, the leader that he is in the locker room, out on the practice field, would be huge for us.

“Guys have chatted amongst each other and I don’t think there’s anyone in that locker room that would need to hear from him. We all know the kind of person Adrian is and I feel like he’s proven that over his time here.”

Last year, the Vikings ranked eighth in rushing offense with Peterson missing two of the final four games with injury and carrying only 18 times in the other two games.

Through nine games this year – the last eight without Peterson – the Vikings are ranked 12th in rushing offense, but his presence could also help a passing offense now featuring rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

“Jerick (McKinnon) and Matt (Asiata) have been doing a great job of stepping up to the plate when their number’s been called,” Bridgewater said. “To add Adrian back into that lineup, he would just bring that excitement to the game, that ferocious attitude in that backfield. The guys around here have played with him for a couple years now and they know what to expect from Adrian when he’s on the field. So to add him to what Jerick and Matt have been doing, it would just be very helpful.”

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