AnalysisOff-The-Field Issues

2014 Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson’s Suspension Upheld

After an agonizingly stupid waiting game, the NFL announced that arbitrator Harold Henderson has denied Adrian Peterson’s appeal against the severity of the NFL suspension regarding his incident, which means his suspension is upheld. The suspension is for at least six games will continue into the next season, starting immediately—meaning he will miss at least three weeks to start the 2015 season though right now is technically suspended indefinitely.

In April he will be able to reduce his suspension from indefinite to merely six games (meaning he could be reinstated and play for Week 4 of the 2015 NFL season) end his suspension. Contrary to previous reports, the suspension is for the remainder of the season, not six games. He will need to prove some degree of remorse and complete or make significant progress in parental counseling in order to be reinstated. Peterson will retroactively serve the six-game suspension by paying back the three game checks for the games he was on the Exempt List during his appeal after the ruling, per Ed Werder of ESPN.

From Harold Henderson, via the NFL’s spokesperson, Greg Aiello: “I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent. He was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.”

This means he found the process by which Adrian Peterson was suspended to be fair within the constraints of the Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement.

In full, his conclusion reads (emphasis mine):

The facts in this appeal are uncontested. The player entered a plea which effectively admitted guilt to a criminal charge of child abuse, after inflicting serious injuries to his four-year old son in the course of administering discipline. No direct evidence of the beating was entered in the record here, but numerous court documents, investigative reports, photographs and news reports, all accepted into evidence without objection, make it clear that Mr. Peterson’s conduct was egregious and aggravated as those terms are used in the Policy, and merits substantial discipline. His public comments do not reflect remorse or appreication for the seriousness of his actions and their impact on his family, community, fans and the NFL, although at the close of the hearing he said he has learned from his mistake, he regrets that it happened and it will never happen again. I reject the argument that placement in the Commissioner Exempt status is discipline. I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent; he was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.

For the entire PDF of his decision, click here.

This isn’t a surprise. The NFL’s bylaws were written in a way that affords the NFL a significant amount of power over its employees and a reading of the NFLPA’s response was not compelling given what we know of NFL rules. Though it is grossly unfair to impose an expectation of “remorse” during a pending legal case, the finding of remorse allows the NFL to say it found an “aggravating circumstance” that gives them the ability to implement a particularly harsh punishment.

The NFLPA is expected to take this outside of the constraints of their labor agreement and bring it to federal court.

The NFLPA released this statement:

The NFLPA expected this outcome, given the hearing officer’s relationship and financial ties to the NFL. The decision itself ignores the facts, the evidence and the collective bargaining agreement. This decision also represents the NFL’s repeated failure to adhere to due process and confirms its inconsistent treatment of players. Our union is considering immediate legal remedies.

This is going to be fun.

I imagine it is unlikely that the courts will implement an injunction, which means Adrian Peterson’s suspension will begin immediately instead of being further delayed. The legal avenue could potentially take longer than Adrian Peterson’s suspension, which means the NFLPA is fighting to preserve the broad rights of their players instead of Adrian Peterson specifically.

The NFL is committed to sending the signal of a tougher Personal Conduct Policy, though recent changes in the policy to immediately suspend players with pay upon accusation are probably anti-competitive and a bad idea. Regardless, it’s a good thing that more clear guidelines are being put in place, so long as the NFL sticks to one set of guidelines for more than one calendar year at a time.

According to Sid Hartman at the Star Tribune, the Vikings are seeking to reduce Adrian Peterson’s salary by half and is the major “sticking point” for the Vikings when it comes to Adrian Peterson’s 2015 playtime. I doubt the Vikings will reduce it by that much, but expect some renegotiation to give the Vikings some cap relief, or pending that, a trade.

Before the decision, the Minnesota Vikings had announced the implementation and creation of a domestic violence education program, which Ben Goessling of ESPN reported on earlier today

He wrote about it more in his ESPN piece:

The program, which is expected to start in January, is designed to reach all levels of the organization — from executives to coaches and players — and family members of team employees will be invited to participate as well. The source said the Vikings eventually hope to offer the program to the entire community, partially through local colleges and high schools. The Vikings will consult experts in the areas of domestic violence and child endangerment to measure the program’s effectiveness — and the experts will be looking specifically for a drop in the number of domestic incidents involving team personnel, the source said.

It is good for the Vikings to begin focusing on ways to reduce incidences of domestic violence. That the NFL played the waiting game for this long is not.

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  1. It is kind of terrible storyline. The exempt list thing is crazy. He only was put on that list because evidence for the trial was leaked. Before the pictues there was no talk of not playing or punishment of any sort. So he was stupid but not letting a 29-30 year old running back play is different than if he was a quarterback or lineman. His time is finite and they claimed most of a year of it for public relations. He lost sponsors. Which is in fact, punishment. He’ll have to make that up with a book deal later.

    1. Isn’t it funny that no one cares that the evidence was leaked illegally? Oh, we’d all be pissed if it happened ito *us*, but of course, this is someone else, so he can burn in hell, right? I guess the end justifies the means, even if the end is completely arbitrary and insane.

  2. They’ll find a way to suspend him for the first 3 games of 2015 at least. First three games will be Green Bay, Detroit and Green Bay.
    Just wait and see.

    I loved watching AP play. I really feel like saying yuck foo to the entire NFL.

  3. the nfl and the vikings didn’t want him back this year, it would have cost them a diminished public perception and more money than it was worth, and the vikings have now commenced rehabilitation of their image. to some degree, the ray rice appeal made it worse for AD

  4. no doubt, pr puppet harold henderson has returned to roger goodell’s million dollar bill-lined lap to only be petted for a short time until he is soon dumped off at the local dog pound due to his over-use and tarnished reputation

  5. What a giant, steaming load of B.S. Roger Goodell is a f—ing joke, a pathetic piece of crap who suddenly gives a damn about things like domestic violence when the sponsors get nervous. Beating your fiancee? Perfectly fine! Torturing and killing dogs? No problem! Raping women in night club bathrooms? Fine by Goodell! Making a terrible parenting decision and accidentally hurting your child while administering an otherwise legal form of discipline? GET OUT! BANNED INDEFINITELY!!!

    Goodell can take his arbitrary rule enforcement and shove it up his self-righteous a$$. It’s not even about Peterson anymore, who may very well have been gone after this season regardless of the off-field stuff. This is about Roger Goodell’s bumbling incompetence and hypocrisy.

  6. Adrian is pretty much the perfect guy for the NFLPA to latch onto and drag through a lengthy legal process. I sure hope he doesn’t allow them to drag this into next year by feeding him some crap about how he is helping out the rest of league. He needs to just do the councilling so he can continue his career next season. The league has been completely assanine with how they went about this but Adrian put himself in this situation. I’m just worried he is going to refuse the councilling now and that is the one thing he should have expected the league was going to require.

  7. What incentive does AP have to restructure his deal? The Vikings hung him out to dry and are rebuilding. Kevin Warren may have gone as far as to work behind the scenes to keep him off the field. AP controls his future. As far as a trade goes, what team is going to take on a contract of a 29-year-old running back worth $12.75, $14.75 and $16.75 million over the next three years? Any trade would be contingent on the contract being restructured and if AP doesn’t like the team, then why would he restructure? I would find it completely understandable if he forces the Vikings to cut him so he can find a new team on his own terms. Who would want to take a pay cut to work for a company that may have worked against them? Consider no compensation for AP their punishment for how they handled the situation. This is what happens when people demand justice from the NFL instead of letting the legal system play out.

    1. The incentive is that if the Vikings cut him next year, they only incur a $2M dead space penalty. His contract isn’t guaranteed and he sees none of the money if he is cut.

      1. Doing the Vikings cap favors isn’t his concern. It’s true that his contract isn’t guaranteed but you saying he sees none of that money only holds true if he doesn’t sign with another team. Do you truly believe another team wouldn’t sign him? It may be as much about him going to a winning team and leaving the Vikings as it is about the money.

        1. Sure another team would sign him. I don’t think they would sign him for as much as the Vikings would be willing to negotiate towards. That’s the nature of negotiations—the Vikings’ leverage comes from the fact that they have exclusive negotiating rights for three years, and in that time have the ability to offer Adrian more than they think the market will offer him. If not, they can cut him nearly penalty-free.

          I am not saying Adrian’s concern is saving the Vikings cap space. I am saying the Vikings are virtually free to do what they want because cutting him doesn’t hurt them in that way.

          1. Typically, you need trust and goodwill to restructure. The Vikes have neither here. The Vikings have put themselves in a position where they actually have no leverage over AP to restructure. Unless you consider them paying him his huge salary leverage while they try to convince him to take less money. He said today that he sees no reason to take less next year because he feels he will be a better player next year. The hard truth is that if the Vikings want to restructure and AP doesn’t want to, they can’t do much about it other than keep him at his large salary, cut him or attempt to trade him (which again, he’s in the driver’s seat there too). Much like when Allen played out his large contract because they had no leverage to restructure and no one would trade for it.

            1. I agree with you for the most part but I don’t think your putting much thought into just how ridiculous AD’s contract is. If they cut his pay in half, he would still be the highest paid back in the league. I agree with Arif that the Vikings would probably give him the best deal and hopefully his agent will realize that to. Its just hard to say if Adrian wants to be here anymore. We should all be keeping on eye on what happens with Murray in Dallas. His contract will be a good bench mark for Adrian’s deal and if that contract doesn’t come from Jerry we could end up with a trade partner. I think the biggest piece of leverage they have to make him renegotiate is the fact that they can hang onto him until the money in free agency dries up. Sure they would like to have the cap room at the start of free agency, but they could carry his number if it came to that.

  8. So when does the labor dispute start and the players walk out on the NFL? Again the fans will get hurt. NFL doesn’t care about the fans, all they care about is money. I really starting to hate the NFL. That is why FCS football is the best football in the country.

  9. He probably pulled in more than 15 million the last couple years. Merely 10 mil this year but I don’t think he needs to hit the soup line quite yet.

    On the flip side, we can probably have the best 3 runningbacks in the leage for what he is paid.