If you haven’t been following along at home (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t), Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson only played in one game last season, due to media and fan outcry after he was charged over a beating he performed on one of his children. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a tempest in a teapot … that the mother of one of Peterson’s several children was trying to get her 15 minutes of media fame. Once I saw the photographs of the child’s injuries (taken a few days after the beating), I completely changed my mind. The child’s mother was totally right to raise this issue and Peterson did need to go to court over the incident.
Peterson is without a doubt the best running back of his generation — one of the greatest talents of all time — yet he still has his own issues that prevent him from achieving what his athletic talents would otherwise allow. And he’s his own worst enemy, because he doesn’t seem to get it that he himself is the one at fault for last year’s disappointments and frustrations (it wasn’t Roger Goodell holding the switch, and it wasn’t the team encouraging him to do it … this is all on Adrian). 1500ESPN‘s Judd Zulgad tries to put it in understandable terms:
Let me be clear about one thing: Peterson’ distrust, or anger, at the Vikings is misguided, juvenile and irrational. It’s also not surprising. Having covered Peterson on a daily basis for four seasons, I can tell you that for a superstar player he never seemed to have a huge ego.
But what also became clear about Peterson, and this took time to realize, was that his “get it” factor was incredibly low. That has shown itself in various ways.
In November 2009, Peterson was clocked driving 109 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone. In March 2011, minutes before NFL owners locked out players, Peterson gave an interview to Yahoo! Sports in which he compared the players’ place in the game to “modern-day slavery.” In October, Peterson admitted to smoking “a little weed” while out on a $15,000 bond after being indicted on a felony child abuse charge.
Take these incidents on a case-by-case basis and maybe they can be rationalized. But put them together and you’re dealing with a guy who doesn’t get it.
The child abuse charge was why Peterson ended up playing in only one game this past season and why he ended up being transferred from the commissioner’s exempt list to the suspended list and is now back on the exempt list after a court found in his favor last week and gave the case back to the NFL.
Peterson ended up pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless injury on Nov. 4 in Texas. The Vikings’ only misstep when it comes to how they handled the Peterson situation was the fact that after having him sit out in Week 2, they briefly decided that he could continue playing before outrage from fans and sponsors forced the team and the league to come up with a way to make him go away.
In recent interviews, Peterson has brought up his concerns about returning to the Vikings, as if they are at fault for his lost season. Perhaps Peterson’s feeling is that if the charges against him hadn’t occurred in the days after footage of Ray Rice striking his fiancée in an elevator surfaced that commissioner Roger Goodell’s punishment would have been different.
He’s probably right.
But let’s not forget that Peterson is the one who struck his 4-year-old son with a “switch”. If Peterson is angry at anyone for having to sit out, his frustration should be directed at himself. Second on that list should be Goodell.
The Vikings did nothing wrong when it came to Peterson not playing and, if anything, they should be angry at him. Spielman, Zimmer and everyone else knows this.
They also know that if they want to get anything in return for Peterson they have to act like they want him back. Thus, the trip to Houston became a necessity, even if it was a charade.
I was horrified at the punishment Peterson inflicted on his child. I thought the decision to de-activate him while his court case was in process was sensible and right. Then, of course, I was mortified when the Vikings tried to re-activate him so quickly, and I lost some confidence that the Vikings’ management could so mis-read the situation. As things progressed, I was unhappy with the NFL in turn for their hypocritical and inconsistent treatment of Peterson, as the league tried to reverse the flow of time itself in order to use Peterson to expiate their own disciplinary sins and omissions.
I can’t blame the NFL Players Association for pushing this, as the NFL should not have the power to retroactively define the terms and conditions under which NFL players work. Punishing Peterson for transgressions (however repulsive) that occurred before those particular rules were put in place is far from justice. Even more, the way the league has handled the situation makes little sense, as the punishment seems to be inflicted on the team Peterson plays for even more than on the player himself (after all, Peterson still collected a multi-million dollar salary while he was in NFL limbo). In what sense should the other 52 players on the Vikings’ roster have to put up with additional uncertainty (beyond the fact that their top player is kept out of the game).
Initially, I hoped that Peterson would recognize that he’d transgressed the boundaries that most North Americans accept on what is reasonable discipline for a four-year-old, admit that he was wrong, and work to regain the trust of society (in general) and the Minnesota fans (in specific). Instead, it appears that Peterson still can’t accept that what he did was wrong and he clearly resents the team management for not backing him 110% during his time away from the team. This is an amazing level of delusion and inability to empathize with others … the Vikings may not have been there for every twist and turn of his legal tribulations, but if that was what he expected, it only emphasizes that he’s not really aware of how badly he disappointed his employers, his fans, and the general public by his actions.
In light of this, perhaps it’s better for all concerned if Adrian Peterson continues his career somewhere other than in Minnesota. I hear Indianapolis, Dallas, and Arizona are lovely places to play football. Maybe one or the other will be his next employer/fanbase. That might be best for everyone.
Update, 9 March: This article might make some heads explode…