This week, Adrian Peterson is going to adorn the cover of Sports Illustrated detailing the last year of his life since returning to the NFL in a story entitled, “Adrian Peterson On Football, Fatherhood and Exile.”
While showing Peterson in a more positive light, it re-opened the scab on the wound that divided many fans in Minnesota and beyond – the form of discipline Peterson dispensed on his son.
In the 16 months since the story hit the fan and went global, Peterson has become a pariah to some while being defended by others, especially those who grew up in the South where a switch is a commonly accepted form of discipline … or at least used to be.
The long story that follows leaves the interpretation up to the reader to decide if Peterson has paid penance with what he has done since that incident or whether he just “doesn’t get it.”
Peterson said he seriously contemplated retiring following the league’s refusal to reinstate him and because of his perception that there were forces against him within the league and within the Minnesota Vikings organization.
“I thought about retirement,” Peterson told SI. “I was serious, man. It was just like an emotional roller coaster that I was going on. Being angry with the NFL for how things were handled, with the organization and the judicial system as well. After I’m like, OK, I finally got this behind me, they come back and switch it up. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It just went to show how politics and how people will cover themselves. I feel like when you know someone is innocent, then you should stand by that. But in this world it’s not about that. It’s about people doing what’s going to make them look good.”
One of the biggest offenders in Peterson’s mind was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. When they first met face to face, it didn’t take long for Peterson to see where Goodell was coming from.
Peterson came away from that conversation feeling that Goodell had his mind made up and was in no way familiar or empathetic with the culture of discipline Peterson grew up in.
“This is when I knew he was blind to the fact of what I was going through,” Peterson said. “I sat down with him. He asked me, ‘What is a whuppin’?’ It was one of the first questions. It kind of showed me we were on a totally different level. It was just a tough situation, because of misperception. I get it. I get why. But you still shouldn’t pass judgment on people when you don’t know.”
Just as bad, in Peterson’s view, was former Vikings Hall of Famer Cris Carter. In the world of 24-hour, 365-day football coverage, the talking heads often make their mark by taking strong stances on issues of the day. For 99.whatever percent of people who heard Carter’s “in the moment,” ratings-based commentary, it was quickly forgotten among the noise. For Peterson, who was intimately involved and in the .0001 percent that remembered the remarks a week later, he remained (and remains) a little hot about his commentary.
“Cris Carter, he had so much to say,” Peterson said. “In that stage, if I would have seen Cris Carter, I probably would have slapped the taste out of his mouth, because that was the mind-frame I was in. I wouldn’t have done it. But I wanted to.”
As the Vikings prepare to look ahead, Sports Illustrated is reminding us of the past. Whether it re-opens wounds best left closed or not, it will be a talker heading into Sunday’s playoff game with the Seahawks.
Maybe it will be the end of the discussion. Those who can’t forgive won’t forget. For those that can, it’s old news.