NFL stars support Peterson’s return

A few of the big names attending Super Bowl activities said they believe Adrian Peterson has served enough time on his suspension, including the man whose records Peterson is chasing.

With Adrian Peterson’s appeal of an arbitrator’s decision to uphold his suspension from the NFL scheduled for Friday in a Minneapolis courtroom, a few NFL stars attending festivities at the Super Bowl in Arizona said he has served enough time.

After playing in the 2014 season opener, Peterson didn’t play the final 15 weeks because he was either made inactive by the Minnesota Vikings (Week 2), on the Commissioner’s Exempt List (Week 3-14) or suspended by the NFL (Weeks 15-17) after he was indicted on child abuse charges in Texas. He ultimately pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault charges, but the NFL suspended him anyways, saying he had shown no remorse for his actions.

“I haven’t followed it that closely, but I still think the man should be on the football field,” said former running back Emmitt Smith, whose career rushing records Peterson is chasing if he can get back on the field. “He’s been suspended already a whole year so there’s no need to be relying on the court system. I think a decision needs to be made by the league, bottom line.”

The NFL already made its decision, suspending Peterson for six games and saying he won’t be considered for reinstatement until at least April 15.

But some believe that Peterson’s suspension was more severe because of criticism NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league took on their handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, initially suspending him for two games until an elevator video became public that showed Rice punching then-fiance Janay Parker. After reviewing that video, the league suspended Rice indefinitely, but when Rice appealed, an independent judge overturned his suspension, making him eligible to be signed in December. He remained unsigned for the remainer of the 2014 season.

“I would say that with the Ray Rice situation and with Adrian Peterson’s situation, regardless of how you feel about it – whether you feel like he was just a father disciplining his child or whether he went too far or whatever – I don’t think the NFL really had policies in place for that kind of thing,” New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “So how do you determine what punishment is for that after the fact and you don’t have a policy in place?”

That is, in part, what the NFL Player Association is expected to argue in court Friday as part of their appeal on behalf of Peterson.

After the Rice and Peterson situations, the league announced a new personnel conduct policy with stricter suspension guidelines, but the NFLPA said that policy should have been collectively bargained.

Goodell said at his Super Bowl press conference last week that the NFL is making progress in the addressing domestic violence in the league and trying to bring awareness of the issues outside of the league, too.

“We’ve done a great deal to bring more awareness to these issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. We are committed to that,” he said. “We are working with various organizations to try to make sure that we, as my advisors like to say … normalize the conversation, bring awareness and understand what victims and survivors are going through. One of the most compelling moments I had of this entire fall was going to shelters or going to hotline centers and being able to speak to the advocates and hear the fear, the emotion, and the economic consequences. That is compelling. It will make you understand this issue much more deeply. We, as the NFL, and this commissioner, understand it a lot better today than we did before. I think we in the NFL want to make this an important issue where we can make a difference in society in general. This is a problem in the broader society.”

The Peterson and Rice cases, and the NFL’s handling of them, brought greater attention to the issue, but some believe Peterson was paying for the perception that the NFL was initially too soft on Rice.

“This is uncharted territory in many ways for the NFL, so it seems like they’re trying to seek the advice of people within that realm to try to figure out exactly the best way to handle those situations, the best way to incorporate discipline,” Brees said. “The only thing I’d say that I wish the NFL would do more of is include the NFL Players Association and include the players in those decisions because I feel like in so many cases those decisions are made by them, discipline is made by them. It’s kind of a one-stop shop. It’s judge, jury and executioner right there. There’s no third-party, mutual involvement. There’s no Players Association involvement. It just seems awfully one-sided all the time so I wish they’d do a better job of communicating and allowing for others to have a say in it.”

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater declined to offer much of his opinion on the situation, but like most of Peterson’s teammates offered support to him.

“I don’t know the entire situation. I’m just playing it by ear,” Bridgewater said. “I would love to have him back next year.”

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