Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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Because I’m working with a little less time constructing this week’s power rankings, I’m going to go through this a little bit quicker and skip one set of rankings (the Drive Success Rate rankings). Still, there’s a lot to digest and dissect, so let’s get going. The easiest set of rankings will be the first, as always, and it will just be the simple point differential system, adjusted for opponent.

Below the jump:

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Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

Into the BYE week we move. As a team riding back to back victories where a rookie quarterback led the way in crucial moments. With a 4-5 record, things seem alright in the land of purple. Consider that the team is without their all pro running back, or red zone threat tight end. Consider how poorly the offensive line has played up to this point, and remember the gauntlet of quarterback talent we played in the first half of the season. When you think back to the ups of downs of this season thus far, I think we’re lucky to be 4-5 moving into the off week.

I wanted to take a moment and look back to some of the major talking points prior to the season kick off and see how close, or far from reality we were.

Adrian Peterson has settled to a plea agreement with Montgomery County and has pled “no contest” to one charge of misdemeanor assault, which (as expected) does not contain any reference to family violence or a minor. As a result, the case has been deferred in adjudication for two years, but effectively is resolved—and Peterson’s legal punishment will consist of the maximum fine ($4000), probation and 80 hours of community service.

This had all been reported before the plea was submitted. The biggest question may be about the nature of Fox’s reporting and the wording they chose when they said “acceptable to the NFL” because one can easily read into that and see the NFL providing a lighter punishment than they ordinarily would, especially in light of the time he’s already missed—though that may be specious as he’s been paid for those weeks and likely had full access to the rights and privileges of an NFL player, like access to player development programs and various benefits negotiated by NFLPA.

Further, the NFLPA may be more bothered with fining back game checks instead of future game checks—a process I don’t remember happening in the past. Fining players for work already done (as opposed to the maximum on-field penalty fine of 25%) may be a poor precedent to set and the NFLPA may rather fight that fight in the long run and take a bullet in the short run in representing Peterson.

The CBA tightly controls fine policy and I don’t see a way this gets around that.

Obviously “work already done” is not quite an accurate way to characterize Peterson’s paid absence from the team, but the exempt/commissioner’s position list is unique in the NFL and relatively tough to untangle from a precedent standpoint. Regardless, Peterson drew game checks, which can be construed in whatever world as “earning them”.

I don’t see much changing for Peterson re: short-term on-the-field prospects, but it’s hard to imagine he changes course like this without some indication from the NFL—who Fox said the leak was from before the plea was agreed to—that Peterson would play a substantial amount of time this year.

One interesting note is the concept of a “credited season” for the purposes of the NFL. One must have “full pay status for a total of three or more regular season games,” per the CBA and those on exempt lists, regardless of actual, take-home pay, do not get those games counted towards them. Credited seasons are important because it allows a player to command a higher minimum salary as veterans (a minimum which is determined by year)—something that may be relevant when his career eventually does wind down.

It may also impact his ability to claim credit for this contract year (moving him closer to free agency) if there is a challenge by the Vikings (which I doubt they’d win).

Though I’ve speculated in the past that the actual charge won’t matter to the NFL—Jerome Simpson was never charged with a DUI and never tested positive for alcohol before his three-game suspensions, Ben Roethlisberger never went to trial and Brandon Marshall was suspended (albeit for one game after appeal) for a dropped domestic violence charge—ESPN is indicating that changing the charge to a misdemeanor from a felony may reduce his suspension:

The NFL Players Association expects that the league will punish Peterson as it would any other player determined to be guilty of a misdemeanor, league sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder.

This would be a reversal from the NFL’s previous stance, which was re-established at an owner’s meeting earlier this year:

One area of consensus that was reaffirmed in last week’s league meetings is that violation of workplace rules and personal conduct should not require a conviction, the sources said.

Any facts established in a legal proceeding can be found as a personal conduct violation regardless of the legal outcome. This has been a practice Goodell has exercised in prior cases involving Ben RoethlisbergerBrandon Marshall and Adam “Pacman” Jones.

That is, a misdemeanor conviction should not be treated differently than a felony conviction, as the NFLPA is suggesting. Merely the facts of the case, which have already been established well in the public eye, should play a role. Complicating things, of course, is that there is no trial of record and that the case file is sealed, and has disappeared from the website.

Also relevant may be the fact that in this case, a judgment call is not necessarily as clear. He will likely meet with the commissioner, but as the severity of the act may matter more than the fact of it (corporal punishment isn’t a universal moral wrong, that is), and that many players in the NFL have said they support Peterson (or have implied they hold similar discipline standards for their children). Though there have evidently been reports that some in the locker room may be disgusted with Peterson, it seems like the public face of players in the NFL is supportive.

Greg Aeillo, NFL spokesman, said “We would review the matter, including the court record, and the commissioner would make a determination. We cannot provide a timetable.” In a statement, the Vikings also indicated they have no further comment: “The Vikings are aware of today’s plea agreement involving Adrian Peterson. We will have further comment at the appropriate time”

It will be difficult to review without a court record, but the NFL needs to make a decision before the game against Chicago after the Vikings’ bye week. My guess is that Adrian will at least finish out the year with the team and have at least four games—or the move to a plea deal makes less sense (though a mounting and less winnable case may be reason as well). I also doubt the NFL will see the exempt list as an in-situ punishment, so he should be subject to some level of punishment, though maybe not the 2-6 games that people using the domestic violence policy as a guide may see.

A four-game suspension makes the most sense to me, based off of my wild speculation. See you in Detroit, Adrian.

It is extremely difficult to evaluate the Adrian Peterson situation in a vacuum where human emotions do not exist, but that is exactly what the Wilf Family and Rick Spielman will have to do in the near future.

I honestly believe that there are people within the Vikings organization that care for Adrian Peterson and regard him as much more as a football player.  I know that people I have worked with for a significant period of time often become more than just someone that uses the same letterhead as me, and I can’t imagine Peterson’s time at Winter Park has been anything different for many employees of the Minnesota Vikings.

I have speculated in the past that this very emotional human reaction played a role in the team’s initial decision to play Peterson after these allegations became public, but eventually the business side of the NFL trumped all else and the organization and the NFL did an about face.   Public outcry, coupled with sponsorships pulling their names, meant the Vikings had to send the NFL’s best running back to his couch for eight weeks.

The Wilf’s are business men, however, and never once did I expect them to release Peterson from his lucrative contract.  In the beginning of September, he was their single most valuable human resource, and you don’t get as rich as Zygi Wilf by selling stocks when they are at their lowest.  I expect the Vikings to employ this same basic principle of business in the coming weeks as they are forced to make a decision regarding Peterson’s status with the organization.

Translation:  I think Peterson will be on the field as soon as the NFL will allow it.

It is tough to pay a guy that much money without getting anything in return.  It is nearly impossible to trade a player in the offseason if you aren’t even willing to play him yourself.  It is quite difficult to recover the trade value that has been lost without letting Peterson take some handoffs and show the 31 other teams why he is still more than just a troubled running back.

Nothing makes any amount of business sense, at least from where I am sitting, other than getting Peterson back in pads as soon as possible.

I still think there are human elements at play here, but I fully expect the investment gurus within the Wilf Family to aggressively attempt to recover Peterson’s stock value, and I don’t think that will be motivated by anything other than a desire to increase the perceived value of employee number 28.

UPDATE: Per ProFootballTalk, Peterson will not plead guilty, but will plead no contest. He will not serve jail time and the charge will in fact not contain reference to a child or family (as indicated below):

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Peterson will plead no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault.  The plea will not include reference to family violence or violence against a minor.

If the agreement is accepted by Judge Kelly Case, Peterson will pay a $2,000 fine, be placed on probation, and perform 80 hours of community service.  Technically, the adjudication of the case will be deferred for two years.

PFT thinks Peterson would be reinstated by the Bears game, but that the NFL could impose a punishment before then, and has a strong feeling that the NFL will act swiftly in order to avoid a PR mess. We’ll see what that means.

According to My Fox Twin Cities, Adrian Peterson will plead guilty to a Class A Misdemeanor in Montgomery County, as previously reported by Adam Schefter. The most important part of the report as it regards the Minnesota Vikings and his playing time:

A source told Fox 26 that Peterson and his legal team were informed the plea deal is acceptable to the NFL and opens the door for his return to Vikings this season.

In this case, the plea deal is expected to include probation. In Texas a Class A Misdemeanor carries maximum penalties that include any combination of a one-year sentence in jail, a $4000 fine and/or probation.

If the plea deal is “acceptable to the NFL” per the Fox report, then his suspension could be minimal or even nonexistent, which would counter reports that he would inevitably face suspension from the league.

As a reminder, the NFL does not even need a conviction to suspend a player, so long as the established facts of the case support a violation of the conduct policy—a category of offense that gives the commissioner full authority over punishment (and therefore would be subject to minimal pushback from the NFLPA or Peterson). Many of these plea deals reduce the charge to base assault, and would remove any mention of a child.

Whether or not the NFL would consider missed games as “time served”—a common term used when discussing Peterson’s NFL case—remains to be seen, but fining games he already missed could cause some issues with the way the CBA has been designed and with privileges Peterson may have already had access to.

More news as the story progresses.

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