Whether it’s keeping him or turning to a trade, the Vikings will likely make up their minds soon about whether Peterson will continue his NFL career in purple.
General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer spent about four hours Wednesday afternoon at Peterson’s home north of Houston. KHOU-TV recorded video of Peterson emerging from the gated mansion wearing a white T-shirt and black workout pants to greet the pair with a hug. Spielman and Zimmer left together later, dressed in sport coats and blue jeans, while photographers from several media outlets captured on camera their departure in a gray car.
This was the first time they’ve had with Peterson since he was placed on paid leave in mid-September following his indictment in a child abuse case involving his 4-year-old son that was resolved with a plea bargain.
The NFL later suspended Peterson without pay under the personal conduct policy, a punishment supposed to be in effect through April 15. But last week a federal judge overruled the league’s arbitrator who had denied Peterson’s appeal. The NFL promptly appealed the decision to a higher court and put Peterson back on the exempt list in the meantime, which created the opportunity for direct contact by the Vikings.
“I appreciate Rick and Coach Zimmer coming down to see me today,” Peterson said in a statement. “We had a great dialogue and they were able to understand where I was coming from and concerns my family and I still have. We respect each other and hopefully the situation can pan out so that everyone involved is content.”
Peterson told ESPN in a recent interview he’s uneasy about returning to the organization, though he’s still under contract with a $12.75 million base salary for 2015. His agreement to the meeting Wednesday stemmed from his respect for Zimmer, for whom he’s only played one game.
The Vikings have plenty of space under the salary cap to keep Peterson on his current contract. Everyone from co-owner Mark Wilf to Spielman to Zimmer has said they’ll welcome Peterson back once he’s fully reinstated by the NFL. Only if Peterson wants to be there, of course. If the relationship were determined to be irreparable, the Vikings would probably try to deal him for a draft pick or two.
The Spielman-Zimmer visit to Peterson’s home conjured reminders of 2010, when the Vikings sent three players to persuade quarterback Brett Favre to return for another season. Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell spent an August night at Favre’s house in Mississippi before he decided to come back.
That story didn’t turn out well, as the Vikings went 6-10 after reaching the NFC championship game the previous season behind a career-best performance by Favre. His consecutive games streak was stopped at 297 that December because of a shoulder injury. His career ended two weeks later with a concussion.
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