Now that Adrian Peterson has agreed to a plea bargain, people are beginning to speculate when, not necessarily if, he will return to the Vikings in 2014. Let's take a look at some things from a few different perspectives, and see how this might play out.
The NFLPA will advocate for Peterson to get back on the field as soon as possible. They are his union representation, and that's their job. If I was NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith, I would be in front of every camera arguing that he has essentially served the NFL Domestic Abuse penalty (six games) and then some. The only thing that really makes the Commissioner's Exempt List not a true suspension is the fact that he's been getting paid--he's not been to the facility, and he's had little to no contact with the team. Peterson makes $700,000 per game, so even if they fine him one game check, that's a huge amount, way above and beyond what a normal fine would be.
If the NFLPA offers NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a deal to let him play if Goodell counts the eight games as a time served suspension, and AP throws in a game check fine, it seems like a reasonable compromise. Anything's possible, of course, and Goodell could say no. I'm no lawyer, but if I was one for the NFLPA and he does reject that plan, I'd be pretty comfortable taking that case in front of an arbitrator.
The Vikings want him back, at least Mike Zimmer does. The few times he's mentioned AP, he's complimented him as a great person, and an asset to the team. Rick Spielman and Zygi Wilf have remained quiet, but they initially reinstated him after the Patriots game, before everything blew up. I don't think that the Vikings will impose any further suspension if the NFL reinstates him, but again, anything is possible. And from a football perspective, to say him returning to the field for the final seven games would be a lift is a huge understatement
Finally, the fans. I caught Hell advocating that the Vikings should have cut AP when all this went down. This whole situation pretty much started a Civil War amongst the fan base, and I'm not here to re-ignite it. Americans, as a people, are a very forgiving society, and now that this will be adjudicated, and his punishment from the courts and the league handed down, I sense most fans will want to move on from this. People believe in second chances, and Peterson will get one with a lot of folks. Will there be people who will quit cheering for the Minnesota Vikings if Adrian Peterson wears their jersey again? Yes, I'm sure there will be. But there are probably just as many more fans that will welcome him back with open arms, and think he's already been out long enough. So if the Vikings do re-instate him, the outcry won't be nearly as vociferous as it was when this incident first came to light. Well, at least I don't think it will. Again, I could be way wrong on this, but if Twitter is any indication of public sentiment, there seems to be a lot more 'second chance' types of feelings out there than there are 'suspend him for the year'.
So, when will AP come back to the team? If you're going to make me say when, this can happen very quickly, as long as Roger Goodell doesn't impose a further suspension that will be appealed by the NFLPA. If he doesn't, there's a very realistic chance he'll play at Chicago in two weeks, coming off the bye. If not then, certainly in time for the Packers game at home the following week.
What seemed like an impossibility two months ago now seems, in some respects, like a foregone conclusion.