AnalysisOff-The-Field Issues

2014 Minnesota Vikings: Pending Appeal, Adrian Peterson Suspended Indefinitely, at least for the Rest of the Year

The NFL has released a statement indicating that they will suspend Adrian Peterson indefinitely, and for at least the rest of the year.


  • Adrian Peterson will be suspended for the rest of the year, possibly longer pending review. It’s an indefinite suspension that Peterson can end through a series of steps.
  • He must complete counseling and therapy towards a rehabilitative effort
  • He must not violate league policy or the law during the suspension
  • He must not violate any conditions imposed upon him as a result of the no contest plea
  • The NFL did not receive information outside of “some court papers related to the November 4 plea agreement.” They drew on statements from the pediatrician and “contemporaneous media reports.”
  • They will consider reinstatement on April 15.

The NFL argued that the severity of the decision came from three things:

  1. The age and power difference between Adrian Peterson and the child. “While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse,  none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child.”
  2. In the hands of an accomplished athlete, the switch is functionally a weapon.
  3. He has not shown “meaningful remorse” or understanding of what he did.

The NFL reiterated that the personal conduct policy gives them broad powers in this case, and that deferred judgments (the no contest plea) have historically been used by the NFL when enforcing policy. The CBA as negotiated gave the NFL enormous leeway, and the players are paying for it.

Though I didn’t predict this specifically, it’s not surprising. I had long predicted that counseling would be a big part of the punishment. Adrian Peterson has appealed the decision through the NFLPA, which have released a statement (in full below). In that statement, they argued that an NFL executive told them the NFL would consider any time on the exempt list as “time served,” which they clearly did not here. They further accuse the NFL of being inconsistent and arbitrary, and DeMaurice Smith went on air to say that the NFL has been “winging it,” which is almost certainly the case.

UPDATE: The NFL has responded to the accusation of reneging on a promise to consider any time on the exempt list as time served, per Albert Breer. 

There were aggravating circumstances in this case. The time (Peterson) missed on paid leave was taken into account in the discipline.

That means the NFL would have suspended him for at least 15 games before review.

For now, Peterson is back on the exempt list because of his appeal and will continue to be paid. He will meet with a doctor on December 1 to design his program.

For what it’s worth, I find it surprising and unlikely that an NFL executive said they would consider time on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List as time served, as they gave out a number of statements in the past week saying the opposite—though I would be equally surprised if Smith was outright lying.

Regardless of the appeal, Adrian will be out for quite some time. Florio reports at Pro Football Talk that despite rumors of a rift in the Vikings organization, they want Peterson back, universally. The statement from the NFL contains a misleading sentence, that he pled no contest to the reckless assault of the child. While that’s all technically true, the way it reads is inaccurate—he pled no contest to reckless assault, different from reckless assault to a child.

UPDATE: The Vikings have released a statement.

The NFL has informed the Vikings of today’s decision regarding Adrian Peterson. We respect the league’s decision and will have no further comment at this time.

Statements from both below, first the NFL’s via Adam Schefter:

Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was notified today that he has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, and will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. Peterson pled no contest on November 4 in state court in Montgomery County, Texas to reckless assault of the child.

In a letter to Peterson, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision. Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”

Under Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Peterson may appeal the decision by giving written notice to the commissioner within three business days. If he appeals, a hearing will be scheduled promptly, at which he may be represented by counsel of his choice and by the NFLPA and at which he will have the opportunity to present evidence in support of his appeal. If he appeals, Peterson will remain on the Exempt List and continue to be paid pending a decision.

In modifying the NFL Personal Conduct Policy August 28, Commissioner Goodell established a baseline discipline of a suspension without pay for six games for certain offenses, including a first offense of assault, battery, or domestic violence. He also identified aggravating circumstances that would warrant higher levels of discipline. In his letter, Commissioner Goodell identified several aggravating circumstances present in this case:

“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse – to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement – none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.

“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.

“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

On November 6, the NFL requested that Peterson and the NFL Players Association furnish a range of information that would be relevant to evaluating Peterson’s conduct under the Personal Conduct Policy. No information was provided beyond some of the court papers relating to his November 4 plea agreement. This request was reiterated on November 11. Although there were several additional exchanges of correspondence between the NFL and NFLPA, no further information was provided, other than the name of a professional with whom Peterson has consulted during the past two months.

Peterson was advised on November 11 that a hearing had been scheduled for November 14 to review his case and to allow him or his representatives, as well as the NFLPA, to offer their views and present information on the question of discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy. The NFL then was advised that neither Peterson nor the NFLPA would participate in the hearing scheduled for November 14. The NFL offered to hold the hearing the following day, but was told that date was similarly unacceptable.

Under the Personal Conduct Policy, a deferred adjudication of the kind entered in Montgomery County establishes a basis for imposing discipline. In addition, many prior decisions confirm that the judgment entered with Peterson’s consent is entirely sufficient to find that he violated the Personal Conduct Policy.

“Your plea agreement in Texas, and the related violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, arise out of abusive injuries that you inflicted on your son earlier this year,” Commissioner Goodell said in his letter. “Based on public reports of your statements and photographs that were made public at the time of the indictment, you used a ‘switch’ – a flexible tree branch – to punish your son, striking him in the ankles, limbs, back, buttocks, and genitals, leaving visible swelling, marks, and cuts on his body and risking severe and long-term damage. The visible injuries were such that a local pediatrician in Minnesota, upon examining your son, felt obligated to make a child abuse report to the police. According to contemporaneous media reports, police and medical examiners termed the cuts as ‘extensive’ and as ‘clinically diagnostic of child physical abuse.’ Based on the severity of those injuries, a grand jury made up of citizens of Montgomery County, Texas, voted to indict you on a felony charge, reflecting their belief that there was reasonable cause to conclude that you had overstepped the bounds of acceptable corporal punishment and engaged in physical abuse of your child. Moreover, it appears that this is not the first time that you have punished children in this way. Public statements attributed to you indicate that you believe that this kind of discipline is appropriate and that you do not intend to stop disciplining your children this way.”

Commissioner Goodell’s decision includes mechanisms to ensure, insofar as possible, that there will be no repetition of this conduct. Peterson was directed to meet with Dr. April Kuchuk, an instructor in the NYU Department of Psychiatry and a forensic consultant to the New York City District Attorney’s offices and New York courts, by December 1. After this meeting, Dr. Kuchuk will design a program of counseling, therapy, and community service as appropriate, which will be shared with the commissioner and NFLPA. Peterson will be expected to adhere to that program. Dr. Kuchuk will report any failure to do so to the commissioner and NFLPA.

On Sunday, Peterson made Dr. Cynthia Winston, a professor of psychology at Howard University, available to meet with Dr. Kuchuk to discuss the case. Dr. Winston advised that she was contacted by an attorney representing Peterson to conduct an assessment and that she has met with him in connection with this matter. Dr. Winston, a respected academic and practicing psychologist, advised Dr. Kuchuk that she does not have a background in child abuse or in assessing or treating victims or perpetrators of child abuse.

Dr. Kuchuk has informed the NFL she believes it is essential for her to meet with Peterson personally to review his counseling and other therapeutic work to date. Dr. Kuchuk states that two evidence-based forms of therapy have been shown to contribute to reducing the risk of future abusive behavior in child abuse cases: first, therapy that addresses parenting your children, in particular those who do not live with you, using a modality called parent-child interactive therapy; and second, cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches the effects of abusive behavior on children and how it traumatizes them. Dr. Kuchuk’s understanding is that Dr. Winston does not provide these types of cognitive and behavioral therapies.

Commissioner Goodell encouraged Peterson to take advantage of the counseling and other resources available to his son through NFL Player Assistance and Counseling Services.

“The well-being of your children is of paramount concern,” Commissioner Goodell wrote. “In the absence of speaking to you to understand your current disposition toward child discipline, we cannot be sure that this conduct will not be repeated. Moreover, we are unaware of any effort on your part to acknowledge the seriousness of your conduct and your responsibility to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change.

“In order to assess your progress going forward, I will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015. At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extent to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay.”

Peterson also is required to adhere to all conditions imposed on him by the Montgomery County Court as part of his plea agreement and deferred adjudication. If he fails to adhere to any of those conditions, he is obligated to promptly report that failure to the commissioner, who may elect to impose further discipline.

“It is imperative that you to avoid any incident of this kind in the future,” Commissioner Goodell stated in his letter. “Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in additional discipline and may subject you to banishment from the NFL.”

NFLPA Statement:

The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take. Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.

The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served.

The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal.

We call on the NFL Management Council to show our players and our sponsors leadership by committing to collective bargaining so a fair personal conduct policy can be implemented as quickly as possible.

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  1. Goodell had better watch out for airborn whisky bottles the next time he dares to visit Minnesota.

  2. I can’t say I disagree with reason three about him showing understanding for what he did. I’ll say it again, if he wanted this to go smoothly he needed to become a advocate against child abuse and I haven’t seen any signs that he’s going that way. Instead it looks like he’ll become a poster boy for the NFLPA’s fight against Goodell and that isn’t going to do anything to help him regain his image off the field. I don’t like how the NFL has handled this whole deal, but I’m a little surprised that someone close to Peterson hasn’t tried to get him to focus on making sure whatever suspension he is dealt doesn’t carry into next season. I would think the worst thing for him would be to have this spill into 2015 and that could end up happening if he gets to play a couple weeks while the appeal is heard. Both he and the team should also be concerned about injury risk. If he does get to play they need to be careful with how much work they give him, protect him from himself type of deal. So many times we see a player come back from an extended absence and immediately have a major injury because they just aren’t in football shape. It just happened with Gurley in the college ranks.

    1. I completely agree. What the NFL seems to realise but Peterson, the NFLPA, and seemingly the Vikings organisation, do not is that Football is now a global sport. And whether or not this kind of behaviour is acceptable or even legal in some parts of the United States, or whether he has served a sentance, is irrelevant in comparison to the abhorrance with which it is regarded in the majority of the rest of the world. I’m British, but I’ve been a Vikings fan since I was three years old. I have a Peterson jersey which I will never wear again. I also have a four year old son. The notion that a grown man could beat a child like that is utterly beyond the pale and to then excuse it by saying that ‘it was an accident’ and that he ‘didn’t mean to do it’, is utterly reprehensible. It’s sick. And it’s a lot bigger than Peterson, or the Vikings. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that the NFL realise that – I guess they really have learned from their misreading of the domestic abuse cases. A sport that is looking to expand. That has enabled fans across the world to enjoy its product. That is showcasing itself in London three times a year now, and is looking to develop an overseas franchise, knows that public perception is both all important and fragile. Unless Peterson becomes an outspoken advocate against child abuse and corporal punishment, and actively works to change a practice that has no place in a modern society, he’ll never play professional football again. No matter how bad our run game is without him (like that has any relevance whatsoever).

      1. FIFA is more corrupt than the NFL. FIFA has no problem with popularity issues through out the world!

        1. FIFA very likely is much more corrupt than the NFL, and it has a huge popularity problem. But Football (to me, soccer to you) generally doesn’t (although it has all sorts of issues from pricing fans out, to match fixing, to playing world cups in Middle Eastern summers). But FIFA has the *luxury* of being corrupt because they are not trying to convince a massive new market that’s it’s worth paying attention to. Football is already established as the preeminent global sport.

          1. People really don’t give a hoot about these issues. If the NFL wants to expand to world markets, the biggest problem would be logistical.

      2. So here’s a scenario and not an unlikely one: say that I live at the top of a hill, but at the bottom of my hill the road dovetails onto a highway — not a big highway, but one at least where the motorists drive say 60-65 mph even though the speed limit is 45. Now, let’s say I have a 4 year old, and one day I catch him playing close to the highway. I tell him in no uncertain terms that he is NOT to get anywhere near the highway. Yet one day I come home and he’s once again playing by there: I yell at him, spank him, and maybe yes even whip him. Why? Because I would rather he be mortally afraid of another such beating than become a mortality himself. So are you sure that under NO circumstances would you do the same?

        1. A thought experiment to try to understand the idea that there are millions of parents who don’t beat their kids to teach them a lesson? Much as I don’t want to get into a specious argument about parenting, and that you should accept that many countries have laws explicitly making this illegal, ok then..
          No of course I wouldn’t beat the child. The child hasn’t done anything wrong – it’s almost impossible for a 4 year old to do anything really wrong, they barely know anything. I would take responsibility for being neglectful and work to make sure I create a safe environment (with whoever else is in the community that I can trust) – I wouldn’t pass that responsibility to the child! And I definitely wouldn’t add myself to the things in the child’s life that can hurt it and that it needs to be afraid of (quite apart from the fact that it wouldn’t even cross my mind to *beat a four year old with a stick*.)

          1. All ethical reasoning is based on thought experiments, or didn’t you learn that in the uni, mate?

          2. “it’s almost impossible for a 4 year old to do anything really wrong” — that has to be one of the most idiotic things I have ever read.

  3. So the lesson as per Ray McDonald is: don’t cooperate with police, make damn sure there are no pictures and of course don’t take any ‘exempt’ stuff. If need be do an a priori 6 week suspension before any adjudication, so you don;t make it worse on yourself.

  4. Recap: Beating your wife is totally fine, and Goodell thinks a 2 game suspension is sufficient as long as you’re sorry and you wife apologizes for her role in you beating her. Unintentionally injur your son during the course of a legal punishment and you will be banned for an entire season while the NFL invents new ways to turn hypocrisy into an art.

  5. I will reiterate what I said before: are you permitted to discipline your child? Yes in every state and every nation. There are limits to the severity, but that is a quantitative difference, not a matter of difference in principle. Are you allowed to beat your wife? In most of the civilized world that is an offense. In every culture, even Catholic ones, it is ground for divorce/legal separation.
    An adult is a morally responsible agent — therein lies the difference. Unless we want to open the floodgates to all sorts of torts against parents filed by children or their lawyers. Maybe some want that.

  6. Check Jerome Felton’s tweet: this is what a lot of people were saying.
    Abuse a tool and it will get revenge on you.

  7. Fans could go to the game with a ‘switch’ in their hands. And flog Goodell in effigy. Not that I would condone such a thing, Just saying.

  8. Some how some way this is Goodell’s attempt to make Jerry Jones happy by getting him to Dallas. Goodell refused to after Jones for tampering earlier this year demonstrates his willingness to help Jones acquire AP. What a crock of sh*t.

  9. Just like most everyone else, I had no idea that AD was such an idiot.
    On top of STILL not thinking that “Whooping” a 4 year old until he’s bloody, is wrong, he “Smoked a little weed” before going to his bail hearing, where he is to be tested.
    His stupidity basically cost us the season.

    The only solace us Viking fans can get out of this is that AD, like us fans, will suffer too.
    His huge money-making days are over.
    Thanks a lot AD, don’t let the door hit you.

  10. BS. I see the Dallas Cowboy who KILLED a man got less…
    I hope AD sues the hell out of them.

    1. But *he* did’t mean it … he was just drunk and had an accident … oh, wait ….

    1. To be fair, there was a lot of talk about this even prior to the indictment. His cap his is so large there was plenty of reason from a business standpoint to part ways.

      1. Exactly, he’s making twice as much as the market would dictate if he were a FA. This other stuff is just going to fuel that fire and complicate the divorce if they choose to go down that road.

  11. Well this week has sure started off well. Too bad I made a vow in church to stop drinking so much.

  12. I was always pretty tolerant of the NFL leadership, because they get heat often for doing reasonable things. But the Peterson Vendetta is clearly a case iof sacrificing a big name player because they are terrified of bad publicity from the politically-correct lobby that wants to outlaw all spanking of kids (including imbeciles like Mike Tanier, who went out and sought “experts” who agreed with him- And the reason for the terror over bad publicity is because they blew it before covering up the Rice story as a Goodell favor to his golfing buddy. So, naturally, Peterson, who was clearly singled out because he is a big name player, takes it on the chin.

    I have actually felt for a couple of year that the Vikings would be better off with a different running back, someone who can block and run routes/catch, and not get caught for a 4 yard loss on first down way too often for the good of teaching young QBs. And the lifestyle that fathers 5 kids by different mothers, and smokes a little weed while the court case is pending suggests that Adrian Peterson is a very physically talented idiot.

    But in this case, he is a scapegoat, and I strongly believe that yesterday would not be too soon to fire Roger Goodell. Goodell is doing a lot more damage to Peterson’s kids than Peterson ever did.

    1. And with Gurley out w/ an ACL maybe he’ll fall to the 2nd round and we can pick him up cheap. Gurley would probably do more for our offense. he catches passes, is strong as Lacy, he blocks.
      and nobody fixes ACL’s like Sugarman.

  13. The Vikings are simply going to pick their battles and cut their losses. It WAS time for Peterson to go and this gives them the perfect reason to cut bait. It’s a fortunate opportunity for the Vikings and why, with how hard it was to get the stadium approved would they fight the battle of trying to defend playing Peterson. We couldn’t win with him. Like Harvin, it was a mirage. The Vikings need to draft for offense next year. Wr or 2, a Rb and get their o line together. I wish it would have worked out, but his famine famine feast thing was stupid and it wasn’t working. It was too focused on him, and it turns out he’s an idiot.You DO need a passing game. That thing about exploiting “8 men in the box” never materialized. It’s all about next year. How bout those 2015 draft prospects!!

    1. Yes you need a passing game…It worked in 09′. We won with him then, It didn’t work with Ponder for the most part. Because of Ponder and Musgrave.
      I think it would help Teddy, we may never know.
      AD put this team on his back in 2012…the Vikings brass ain’t got any gonads if they cut him.

  14. My question is how long is Norv the gypsy going to be here. That’s where we need the continuity.

  15. Goodell is a liar, a known liar! Yet a liar is is put in charge of making decisions about dealing out punishments? You can tell this is about showing up AD and the NFLPA. It’s how he operates, very immature.
    He saw the Ray Rice video, the dumbass decided 2 games. Everyone saw it…oh damn! Now he feels like he has to go way overboard on all other punishments. Dude is a gutless weasel. A lying gutless weasel.

  16. Anyone that wants the Vikings to cut AD is half loony. Vikings need AD to come back and play a few games, showing he still has it, then trade him. Why give another team AD for free? Stupid.