Peterson questioned the level of loyalty that management has had for him over the last six months since the ordeal with his child abuse case in Texas has played out. Referring to the Vikings’ decision to work with the NFL to place him on the Commissioner’s Exempt List as “an ambush,” Peterson feels as though the organization did nothing to stop the process.
While he pledged his love for Minnesota, his teammates and Vikings fans, he remains unclear about what his future will hold with the Vikings once his suspension ends.
“It’s hard to say,” Peterson told ESPN. “I love Minnesota. There are people that have had my back and supported me. Last year, with the things that took place, I had a lot of fans that supported me through everything. For the fans, I would definitely love to come back, but then again, it’s a business. When it comes down to business, you can’t get caught up in the loyalty to fans or to a team or anything like that. You know how it is in the NFL.”
Peterson added that the last several months has been an eye-opener about the difference between the “family” mantra that teams often use to describe the collective experience of playing football with the business of the National Football League, where family ties can be severed in an instant and the love that had been shown quickly disappears.
“I learned a lot through this process,” Peterson told ESPN. “I’m still uneasy, to be honest with you. I’m still uneasy about a lot of things that took place within the organization. Of course, those guys ultimately supported me and I’m grateful for that. But ultimately, with me being able to be on the inside and see how cards were dealt, how things were worded, this, that and the other, it’s about protecting your brand, your organization, what you have built. In the (grand) scheme of things, not one person counts over that. I get that.”
Peterson, along with Baltimore running back Ray Rice, have become the poster men for domestic violence as the NFL quickly changed the penalty phase of its personal conduct policy on the fly in response to public outrage that the punishment meted out to Rice (a two-game suspension) was far too insufficient to fit the crime.
Following his U.S. District Court hearing earlier this month as the NFL Players Association filed a motion with Judge David Doty to get Peterson’s suspension lifted, Peterson said he wanted to return to the Vikings. Now it would seem that he is more conflicted with how the organization has handled his situation.
“It shows you can have all the loyalty toward someone and toward an organization, a fan base, but when things really shift and it’s you or the empire, they’re gonna put you out on a leash,” Peterson said. “I said, ‘Of course (I would love to come back to the Vikings, after a court hearing in Minneapolis on Feb. 6).’ I said it. But my emotions, as far as those things I feel, those are for players like Chad Greenway, those guys that play the game just like me, that have the same passion I have, the same goal I have, to win a championship. That’s where it comes from. It don’t come from the organization. I’m not in a good place when it comes to that.”
At the heart of Peterson’s concerns, as he told ESPN, is that he is aware of who wants him to come back and who doesn’t. He was effusive in his praise of head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, but didn’t think their communication through the process was a “two-way street.” At times, Peterson felt like a man without a country who was cast adrift on his own to fend for himself while his teammates went upon the business of playing the 2014 season. He has received a lot of support from his teammates, but has been taken aback by how some members of the organization have treated him and how the local Twin Cities media has had individuals attack Peterson publicly about issues that had little to nothing to do with his case in Texas.
“I know there are a lot of people in the organization who want me back,” Peterson said. “But then again, I know the ones who don’t. It’s a difficult transition, and it’s not just about me. I have a wife who was able to sit back and see how people in Minnesota said this and said that, how media in Minnesota took the head of the situation with my child, and were digging into things that weren’t even relevant. That wasn’t people in Texas – it was people in Minnesota that dug in and brought things out. That impacted me, but most importantly, it impacted the people around me – my family, my kids. This came from the state I love so much, that I wish to bring a championship to? This is how they treat me when I’m down and out? You kick me? My wife (and I), we’ve had several conversations about me returning to Minnesota, what the best options are. If I left it up to her, I’d be somewhere else today, and that’s with her weighing everything. It’s a lot for me to weigh; she understands that. But there are some things that I’m still uneasy about.”
As he nears the end his suspension, Peterson is looking forward to returning to the NFL. He has had months to reflect on what he considers to be a betrayal of the system that was collectively bargained.
A.P. is gearing up to have a big 2015 season, but he just isn’t sure it’s going to be in Minnesota.
One thing he does know, however, is that he’s ready to come back and prove any of his detractors wrong.
“Just having the time to sit back and clear my mind, this has really changed me mentally,” Peterson said. “My approach to things is going to be on a different level. With the things I’ve been through the last year, things definitely have more meaning. When I’m able to apply that when I’m working out and getting ready for something, it’s always a great thing. It’s always great when I’m able to put in great quality work. I’m ready to shock the world.”