Nearly all of the Minnesota Vikings’ heavy-hitting decision-makers appear to be on board with Adrian Peterson’s return to the team.
Perhaps the most important one, COO Kevin Warren, whose promotion to that position was announced Thursday, clarified his position after an ESPN report in November indicated Warren was trying to block Peterson’s return to the team in 2014. Peterson faced a legal battle after Week 1 of the regular season, when felony child abuse charges were filed against him in Texas. In December, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault and was suspended for six games by the NFL.
Warren said he would welcome Peterson back “with open arms” once he is cleared to return by the NFL.
Throughout the process, first-year head coach Mike Zimmer was steadfast in his support of how Peterson operated around coaches and teammates in the nine months he dealt with him, and in January general manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings have had internal “hypothetical discussions” about Peterson’s situation, but the team is prohibited from direct contact with Peterson until his suspension, which is scheduled to last until at least April 15, is lifted.
“I don’t know if there’s a team in the NFL that wouldn’t want Adrian Peterson on the football team,” Spielman said in January. “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.”
But Warren’s comments on a conference call Thursday perhaps indicated the business side of the organization is warming to the idea of Peterson’s return to the team after his suspension is done. The Vikings deactivated Peterson in Week 2 on their own accord when charges were filed just two days before the team’s second game of the season. They initially reinstated him, but after pushback from the public and team sponsors, with some sponsors suspending their relationship with the team, the Vikings, Peterson and the NFL agreed to place him on the commissioner’s exempt list, where he remained until his suspension was issued.
Warren was part of the press conference in September as the team’s top officials tried to explain the organization’s stance on Peterson’s situation. On Thursday, however, Warren’s comments appear to have increased the chances for Peterson’s return to the Vikings once he has satisfied the terms of his suspension with the NFL.
“Adrian has spent his entire career here and he has not only been an absolutely phenomenal football player and a joy to watch – I’ve been fortunate to watch every single game, both preseason and regular-season games that he’s played in a Vikings uniform,” Warren said. “Also, he’s been a phenomenal individual in our community; he’s done so many good things that the public and media have heard about, and then there are a lot of other things that he does on a very quiet and personal basis. And so from my feelings about Adrian, I have great respect for him as a football player and a person. He’s part of our Vikings family. I would welcome him back with open arms.
“… My feelings about Adrian are very positive. They’ve been very positive every day that he’s been here with the Vikings. I look forward to having him have an opportunity to play again. … He’s an absolutely incredible football player and he’s a great community ambassador and he’s been great for the game of football. I hope that he finishes his career here in Minnesota; I hope we can win multiple Super Bowls together and I hope I can attend his Hall of Fame induction in Canton one day many years down the road. I hope that sets it straight of how I feel about Adrian Peterson.”
Peterson was in court last week as the NFL Players Association filed a petition on his part to have him immediately reinstated, something the NFL opposes until he has satisfied the conditions of his suspension. In announcing his suspension in December, the league said he would be suspended until at least April 15.
Warren attended Peterson’s hearing and described on Thursday what he wanted to relay to Peterson by his attendance.
“He’s a member of the Vikings family and when I see members of the Vikings family I either give them a hug or shake their hand and let them know it was good to see him and that he looked good,” Warren said. “I respect the NFL, I respect the NFL process and as far as communicating with the players that are in his status, so we’re going to abide by the rules.”
Warren said “we’ll how that turns out,” referring to Peterson’s appeal through the NFLPA, but in addition to the support Peterson has received from owner Mark Wilf, Zimmer and Spielman, Warren’s backing of Peterson’s potential return to the Vikings signals a more unified public front from the organization.
“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 in January. “… He’s done a lot of positive things in this community as well.”
While Peterson’s reinstatement by the NFL is the major hurdle standing in the way of his return, there is also the financial consideration. Peterson is scheduled to make a $12.75 million salary in 2015 with a $15.4 million charge against the Vikings’ salary cap. That’s almost $3.5 million more than any other running back in the NFL, and Peterson and Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy are the only running backs with a salary-cap charge of more than $10 million.
“That is definitely a question that Rick Spielman and (vice president of football operations) Rob Brzezinski and Coach Zimmer are better suited to answer when it comes down to the pure football decisions and the salary cap questions,” Warren said.
Almost all aboard for Peterson’s return
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