Perhaps nowhere outside of sports does the phrase “what if” have as much meaning.
What if that pass hadn’t been tipped at the line and turned into an interception? What if a missed tackle at the 20-yard line hadn’t resulted in a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown? What if the coach hadn’t burned a timeout in the third quarter that came back to haunt him in the final two minutes? There are a lot of “what ifs” in sports.
But one of the biggest “what if” moments could play out early next week, as the Adrian Peterson appeal will finally reach a conclusion.
What if designated arbitrator Harold Henderson deems that Peterson has served enough penance for his disciplining of his son?
That decision is coming in the next several days. Given an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of Ray Rice’s return to the league, there is acute anticipation of the Henderson decision. A former NFL executive who worked alongside Commissioner Roger Goodell, who handed down the Peterson verdict in the court of football opinion, Henderson’s motivation in rendering verdicts imposed by his former boss is viewed by skeptics as being far from objective.
In NFLPA circles, he could be known as Triple H – Harry “Hip-Pocket” Henderson – because of the frequency of his upholding punishments meted out by Goodell. But given the recent precedent set by the Rice saga and the growing belief that Peterson has been punished excessively – the irony of that not being lost.
What if Henderson breaks tradition and immediately reinstates Peterson?
There are several scenarios that have been discussed in that potential decision. There is little questioning that his teammates would much prefer to have the pre-eminent running back in the NFL return. The coaching staff has expressed a willingness to improve their job security by having a football weapon of mass destruction at their disposal.
Those feelings have been expressed again and again since Week 2 of the 2014 season. We know where the men in the trenches – from generals to privates – stand. But where do the commander and chiefs stand?
The last time we saw the Vikings’ decision-makers publicly discuss the Peterson situation, it had all the looks of a hostage statement. Uncomfortable doesn’t quite cut it – as prepared statements went off the tracks when media wolves starting howling.
The awkward statements were made in front of a Vikings backdrop that was festooned with markings of the Radisson Hotel chain. That was the last time the two have been associated together. The multi-billion-dollar industry of the NFL moves on just fine without them.
But if we hit the rewind function on revisionist history, the last time we heard anything on the organizational front was that same reinstatement presser gone bad.
Since then, the top dogs with the Vikings haven’t addressed the Peterson matter. If Henderson breaks tradition, the spotlight will return to Winter Park – along with circling buzzards that tend to assemble upon a fresh kill.
The Peterson protocol is about to reach a resolution – good, bad or otherwise.
The Vikings have been silent to their business decision as it pertains to Peterson since the September media feeding frenzy. As far as those who have gone on the record in the Peterson matter, the voice has been unanimously in support of bringing A.P. back to do what he does like few others.
We have yet to hear from those who sign checks whether Peterson is welcomed back with open arms.
Holler: One big unanswered question with A.P.
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