By Jon Krawczynski
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have seen the details. They have seen photos of the injuries that Adrian Peterson’s 4-year-old son suffered at the hands of the star running back. They have a history of punishing players who have run into trouble with the law.
The Vikings brought Peterson back to the team anyway even as the public furor over the NFL’s approach to addressing domestic abuse reached a fever pitch.
The Vikings reinstated Peterson on Monday, one day after he sat out a 30-7 home loss to the New England Patriots after he was charged with a felony in Texas for using a wooden switch to spank his son. Peterson, who said he was using a form of discipline his father used on him as a boy, is expected to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
“We are trying to do the right thing,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “This is a difficult path to navigate regarding the judgment of how a parent disciplines his child. Based on the extensive information we have right now and what we know of Adrian not only as a person but what he’s done for this community, we believe he deserves to play while the legal process plays out.”
Peterson didn’t talk with reporters, but issued a statement in which he insisted he is not a child abuser and wanted “everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child.”
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said they decided to bring back Peterson for practices and Sunday’s game at New Orleans “after significant thought, discussion and consideration.” The Wilfs said they want to let the case play out before making any more definitive decisions on Peterson’s future with the only NFL team he has ever played for.
“To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child,” they said. “At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action.”
The Wilfs were not available for further comment on Monday but Spielman said they are going to leave the decision about whether Peterson crossed a line while disciplining his son up to the courts.
“For a league full of people that claim to care about leadership, there sure seems to be a bunch of followers,” ESPN analyst and former quarterback Tim Hasselbeck tweeted.
Peterson faces a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, which carries penalties of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His initial court appearance in Conroe, Texas, near Houston, was scheduled for Oct. 8.
Corporal punishment is legal in Texas and non-deadly force against a child by a parent or guardian is permissible. But the punishment is abusive if it causes injury. A blow that leaves a bruise, welt or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive. The guidelines also say use of an instrument “is cause for concern.”
“I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen,” Peterson said. “I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.”
He noted that many people feel “very strongly” about corporal punishment, but said “regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.”
Spielman steadfastly denied the team’s decision on Peterson had anything to do with his status as one of the best players in the league and his ability to help the team win.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he had input during deliberations, but ultimately it was ownership’s decision to let him play again.
“It’s important that when I ask these players to do the things I ask them to do, to fight for me, to run through the wall for me, that I’m able do my very best to help support them when I can,” he said.