Adrian Peterson is nearly always a sure bet to produce for the Minnesota Vikings. The 2012 NFL MVP has remained a force to be reckoned with, when healthy. However, it is not the on the field contributions that have come into question for Peterson as of late. The eighth year veteran, who normally exceeds the NFL standards, is embroiled in an off the field issue at the most inopportune time for the league.
When Peterson did not practice earlier this week for the Vikings, despite no reports on an injury during a 34-6 victory over the Saint Louis Rams on Sunday, many thought Peterson was simply being given a day off. However, news broke Friday of the superstar’s child abuse indictment. Following the news, the Vikings deactivated their star running back for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. The incident finalizes what has been a brutal public relations week for the NFL.
After mishandling the domestic violence case of the recently released Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came under fire. Media outlets, enraged fans, and women’s rights advocates found Rice’s initial two game suspension far too lenient. Given the circumstances surrounding the incident, one could understand the public dismay. Initial video footage of the Rice altercation revealed him dragging his then-fiancée’s body by her hair out an Atlantic City Rebel Hotel elevator. However, earlier this week, TMZ released a lengthier video of the incident that showed Rice reportedly spat and punched-out his now-wife, Janay Palmer. Palmer married Rice shortly after he was indicted for aggravated assault on March 27. Ultimately, Rice was able to avoid criminal prosecution by agreeing to a pre-trial intervention program. A month after suspending Rice, Goodell backtracked by admitting his wrist slap punishment for Rice was a mistake and he introduced new protocols for domestic violence incidents for NFL players.
Much of the criticism that has been brought upon Goodell stems from what many speculate is a possible lack of sincerity on his part. Discipline is not a black and white issue. However, the commissioner’s job is to apply it fairly and adequately for each incident. Given the facts, timing, and circumstances, critics believe Goodell implemented the new domestic violence policies due to mounting scrutiny and in an early cover up attempt.
After news broke that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended a full year on Aug. 27, analysts were quick to compare Gordon’s harsh punishment for smoking marijuana with the much more serious domestic violence offense of Rice. Although Gordon’s suspension was fought on a lengthy appeal, one might argue that at least three separate occasions of drug use warrants little to no sympathy for 2013’s breakout receiver. Gordon’s second-hand smoke defense failed to make legal headlines. But Denver Broncos wideout, Wes Welker, and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick have both been suspended for four games by the league under their PED policy. The constant string of suspensions caused a stir and appears to be at the root of a converted a new drug abuse agreement. The NFL’s new drug abuse policy has reached a tentative agreement and Scandrick will reportedly return to action as soon as the agreement is official, and Gordon will be subject to a 10 game ban, rather than missing up until after next season’s training camp.
While the NFL may be on the verge of remedying its drug abuse suspension issues, Peterson’s case is far from over. The running back has already been booked, and released from Montgomery County jail via $15,000 bond. Peterson was charged with reckless/negligent injury of a child. The charge stems from various bodily injuries that his four-year old son suffered after he allegedly beat the child with a switch. Peterson’s attorney, Russ Hardin, claims that the explosive running back is cooperating fully with authorities and never intended to injure his son. According to Hardin, his client was also hit with a switch as a form of parental discipline during his childhood. The 29-year-old running back is a native of Palestine, Texas.
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant noted that Peterson and all parents have discretionary rights to discipline their children. Unfortunately for Adrian Peterson, this disciplinary issue must be viewed off the field by his Texas peers, not his NFL colleagues, and in this case, the Grand Jury deemed his behavioral method “exceeds” their standards of sensibility. If found guilty, the perennial Pro Bowl back can be sentenced to a penalty of two years in prison and subject to $10,000 in fines.
This is not the first time one of Peterson’s sons has been a victim of child abuse. Last year, Peterson’s 2-year old son was allegedly murdered by his mother’s boyfriend. Peterson was only aware that he was the child’s father two months prior to the boy’s October death. Joseph Robert Patterson was subsequently charged with the murder. It is not clear yet what stance the NFL will take with regards to disciplining Peterson. Nonetheless, the Vikings can ill afford to be without the game’s most dominant running back. Peterson’s latest off field troubles does not help to deflate the exceedingly low standards for conduct of NFL players as of late. With the growing number of critics calling for Goodell’s resignation, he would be wise to make sure his every move is calculated going forward.
Commentary by Brandon Wright