Adrian Peterson could be back on the field this season

With the elections over, it’s just possible that politicians will lose some of their fervent interest in how the NFL manages its affairs in general and the case of Adrian Peterson in particular. (Cynical? Who, me?) The record setting running back has been on the NFL Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list since September 17th following charges filed against him involving corporal punishment of his son. (Which could certainly be argued to have been excessive in that instance in the court of public opinion.) Peterson’s legal team is now engaged in some legal wrangling which could result in his being back on the field as soon as next week.

The NFL Players Association sent a letter to the NFL on Friday, calling for the immediate reinstatement of Adrian Peterson per the agreement the sides made for the Minnesota Vikings running back to go on the commissioner’s exempt list in September, according to sources.

The agreement to place Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list explicitly states that Peterson would be removed from the list upon resolution of his legal matter, sources said. Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor last week.

If the NFL declines to comply with the agreement, the NFLPA can then file an expedited non-injury grievance to have Peterson reinstated immediately.

I’ll probably need to drag an actual attorney in on this one to translate all of this into English, but it sounds like there was a technicality built in to the original agreement. Peterson could return once the court case was resolved. This apparently has nothing to do with whether or not he was cleared of the charges. Having plead no contest, I suppose the case is resolved.

Peterson obviously wants to come back. The Vikings want him back. The league would probably like to have such a dynamic player back if it can be done in a way that doesn’t create even more of a PR headache for them. But that last bit is probably the sticking point. The nation’s self-appointed guardians of morality would love to see the NFL taken down as hard as possible, and while it may not be as tempting a topic as somebody knocking their girlfriend out cold, Peterson still represents a political target of opportunity.

In the end, the running back’s opponents in social justice circles and the media would like to cement the idea in the public consciousness that corporal punishment is a bad thing and that good parents only use time out and finger puppet demonstrations to correct the behavior of naughty children. Anyone disagreeing with this theory is clearly a bad person and should not be rewarded with success in their professional lives. The NFL, for their part, is in this for the money. In a perfect world they would love to see this all go away and get back to the business of filling up stadium seats and getting ready for the playoffs. But if activists can attract the attention of enough sponsors and cable news talkers, they will keep kicking this can around.

Side note for the NFL – There has been a ton of talk and negative press among the commentariat, but you really need to focus on the bottom line. Of the 30 most watched shows on television this fall, 26 of them were NFL games. These hounds are nipping at your heels, but they aren’t impacting the fans who keep the sport alive. Set your policies to make it clear that players need to behave themselves off the field and then get on with the game.