With the Minnesota Vikings already into their offseason evaluations, one important piece of unfinished business remains largely out of their control.
Star running back Adrian Peterson remains suspended by the NFL, awaiting a Feb. 6 appeals hearing filed on his behalf by the NFL Players Association, but general manager Rick Spielman says nothing has been resolved. Peterson is supposed to be suspended until “at least” April 15, but that is more than a month after the March 10 start of free agency and only weeks before the 2015 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, the Vikings will have to make some decisions about their running back position despite the uncertainty of Peterson’s decision. Spielman admitted that the Vikings have had internal “hypothetical discussions” about the Peterson plan, but he declined to go into details during a roundtable discussion with reporters on Wednesday.
“I don’t know if there’s a team in the NFL that wouldn’t want Adrian Peterson on the football team,” Spielman said. “If you can name me one … I don’t want to speak for other teams. I’m being a little sarcastic with that, but I know that he’s a pretty good football player.”
There is little doubt about that after the 2012 NFL MVP ran for 2,097 yards in that season. But after he was indicted on child abuse charges in Texas in September, his season was done. He pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of reckless assault against one of his 4-year-old sons.
He played one game before the indictment was filed and the Vikings deactivated him for their Week 2 game, then announced they were bringing him back before a public storm of backlash caused them to reverse direction before the NFL allowed him to be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, a seldom-used designation that required the team to pay his salary while his legal entanglement continued.
“Under the circumstances, the way everything happened, we tried to do everything from our ownership on down, tried to do the right thing and what we felt was right and tried to also follow what the rules are that we have to deal with with the NFL as well,” Spielman said.
When the NFL suspended Peterson for six games in December, his season was officially over, but he still has three years remaining on his contract, calling for a $12.75 million base salary in 2015 with a $15.4 million salary cap hit. The Vikings would only take a $2.4 million hit on their salary cap if they decide to release or trade him.
Spielman left little doubt about his respect for Peterson’s talents on the field and reiterated that Peterson admitted to his mistake.
“I think people tend to forget, when Adrian did make a mistake, he admitted he made a mistake, he went through the process in the court system,” Spielman said. “… He’s done a lot of positive things in this community as well.
“Until things get resolved right now, we have Adrian Peterson, who is under contract next year, who is currently suspended by the NFL and that’s pretty much all I can go into right now.”
Spielman said the Vikings are simply dealing with the situation put in front of them, whether they agree with the NFL’s decision to suspend Peterson for six games or not. He declined to discuss any conversations the team has had with the league about Peterson’s situation.
Because of that suspension, the organization can’t talk with Peterson directly, Spielman said, but the general manager has little doubt that when Peterson returns to the field, whether that’s with the Vikings or another team, he will be effective as ever.
“Adrian’s maybe one of the most unique players I’ve ever been around, where everybody had talked about, well, he’s not going to be the same after his ACL, and that was his best year coming back from that,” Spielman said. “Knowing Adrian, I know that he is going to want to come back and play – he’s going to play at a very high level when he comes back. I’m anticipating that, just knowing Adrian from what he’s done in the past.”
The Vikings, however, have to implement alternative plans with Peterson’s situation still undecided. They went through the final 15 weeks of the 2014 season with rookie Jerick McKinnon and third-year player Matt Asiata receiving the bulk of the carries, and a couple other running backs contributing in limited roles.
So what’s the plan moving into the offseason?
“I think a lot of it will depend on Adrian’s situation,” Spielman said. “But I also know just initially as I’ve started putting a little bit of the draft stuff together, it’s a pretty good running back class this year. I think it’s one of the better running back classes in depth-wise that has come out in a while.”
Spielman on Peterson: Nothing is resolved
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