When word of Adrian Peterson's indictment for what was then a charge of causing injury to a child came down, I'll admit that I was tough on the man. To be certain, I still don't like what he did. However, he seems to be regretful over what he did, the mother of his son doesn't want him to be punished any further, and it seems as though he's going to take this opportunity to actually make some changes. Peterson has been on the sidelines for eight weeks. . .once from a deactivation by the Vikings, and seven games on the commissioner's exemption list.
The Minnesota Vikings, after stumbling around a bit at the beginning, sought the exemption remedy from the National Football League, and it was granted. They knew that only Commissioner Roger Goodell would be able to remove Peterson from the list, and that his time on the list would extend until his legal issues were over with. Well, now his legal issues are over with, so things should be good. . .right?
Well, not so much, no.
Word has just come down from various sources that Peterson's actions are subject to review under the league's Personal Conduct Policy, and that he will remain on the exemption list until a review is completed. . .up to and including a hearing for Peterson.
Depending on which source you believe. . .
Am told pending conduct review of Adrian Peterson case was part of negotiated settlement on his status back in September. Expected— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) November 6, 2014
Contrary to reports, Peterson did not previously agree to remain on Commissioner's Exempt list through resolution of conduct policy review.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 6, 2014
That may or may not have been part of the deal.
We have a lot of acronyms in my line of work, and the one that is the most applicable to how the National Football League is treating this situation is BOHICA. What does BOHICA stand for?
It stands for Bend Over Here It Comes Again. And that's exactly what the league is telling Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings in this matter.
From all reports, Rusty Hardin was keeping the league apprised of everything that was going on in his legal proceedings. The National Football League knew what was going on the entire time. They knew the potential for a plea bargain was there. They've had plenty of time to "review" Adrian Peterson's case. They've had seven weeks worth of time to get thing together and formulate some semblance of a plan should this scenario play out. Honestly, there were only three scenarios. . .Peterson pleads out to a lesser charge, Peterson is found not guilty, or Peterson is found guilty.
But that isn't what's happening. Now they've determined that they need to "review" the case. Then they have to give Adrian Peterson a hearing. Then they have to come to a decision on discipline. And then, after they've come to that decision, they'll let everyone know what's happening with Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season. Because the matter is being reviewed under the league's Personal Conduct Policy, there's the potential for a 6-game suspension for Peterson out of this whole thing. The Vikings have seven games remaining in their season. And, in the meantime, Peterson will remain on the Commissioner's Exempt list.
As Judd Zulgad just said on the Twitter (in slightly fewer words), the fact that Goodell still has no idea what to do with this situation at this point in time simply reflects his level of incompetence and the fact that he's not fit for the job of NFL Commissioner. At this point, Goodell and the National Football League are completely making things up as they go along, to the detriment of pretty much everybody. I touched on the three scenarios possible above, and the way the NFL is treating this suggests to me that they didn't think the plea bargain was even a remote possibility.
If the NFL announces a further suspension for Adrian Peterson after everything that's already happened, the National Football League Players Association is going to raise holy hell over it. And that's exactly what they should do. Pro Football Talk head writer (and lawyer) Mike Florio puts it better than I could:
Players facing suspension under the substance abuse policy are allowed to play until all league proceedings are resolved. Players facing suspension for PEDs are allowed to play until all league proceedings are resolved. Why should the procedure be any different regarding conduct that occurred off the clock, away from the team facility, and in the privacy of Peterson's home?
The procedure is different because it's becoming clear the NFL and/or the team are scared to let him play. Which means that Peterson and the NFLPA should give them something to truly be afraid of - an immediate lawsuit with a request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction forcing the NFL and the Vikings to allow Peterson to play until the league resolves his case under the personal conduct policy.
You suppose a lawsuit would get them to stop dragging their feet? You would think that. . .but, given that this is the National Football League, who knows.
Now, I don't know about how the suspension would work or if the NFLPA would fight that sort of thing or whether something could be done to make Peterson's time on the Commissioner's Exempt list count as part of any potential suspension. At this point, nobody knows that.
But there's no reason for the National Football League to delay this any further. They've had plenty of time to figure something out, and the fact that they're not is nothing more than a justification to keep from making the "hard decision" about Adrian Peterson. Again, I don't like what Peterson did to set this whole thing off in the first place, but he's been through the legal process. . .whether anyone agrees with the outcome or not. . .and he's done what the league and the team have asked him to do.
Roger Goodell and the National Football League need to remove their collective thumbs from their collective fourth point of contact and resolve this matter. There's really no excuse for them not to do so.
EDIT: Also, per Florio. . .
The deal, which allowed the NFL and the Vikings to get Peterson off the field while enabling Minnesota to retain his rights, expired upon adjudication of the criminal charges. Which means that, based on the terms of the agreement the NFL and the NFLPA brokered in September, Peterson should be removed immediately from the Commissioner-Exempt list.
If Peterson chooses to pursue litigation, the document generated by the league and the union in September becomes a potent piece of ammunition to support a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction allowing Peterson to play pending the resolution of the league's review of his case under the conduct policy. Which of course would expedite the review of his case under the conduct policy, considerably.
. . .
Failure to give Peterson credit for the time he has missed, however, will hurt the league in the long run. Why would any player decide in future cases to agree to step aside from the playing field pending the resolution of his legal case if he knows that, in the end, any playing time he has missed won't matter? That's hardly the best way to repay Peterson for helping the league out of a tough spot, and it will make it much harder to justify similar arrangements in the future.
So there's that. Roger Goodell and company should probably figure out something quickly.