EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Adrian Peterson is coming back to the Minnesota Vikings less than a week after he was charged with child abuse for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son.
Peterson, considered one of the best running backs in the NFL, was benched for Sunday’s 30-7 home loss to the New England. Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said Monday they had decided to bring back Peterson for practices and Sunday’s game at New Orleans “after significant thought, discussion and consideration.”
The Wilfs say they want to let the legal process play out before making any more definitive decisions on Peterson’s future with the only NFL team he has ever played for.
“As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue,” the owners said. “On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.
“To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently, we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.”
He faces an initial court appearance in Conroe, Texas, on Wednesday on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, which carries penalties of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Corporal punishment is legal in Texas and non-deadly force against a child by a parent or guardian is permissible. But the punishment is abusive if it causes injury. A blow that leaves a bruise, welt or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive. The guidelines also say use of an instrument “is cause for concern.”
Peterson’s attorney said his client has acknowledged striking his son as a form of discipline similar to what Peterson endured as a young boy growing up in Palestine, Texas. He said Peterson was cooperating with the investigation and did not mean to inflict any harm on his son.
Hours later, the Vikings decided not to play Peterson against the Patriots, moving swiftly after a week in which the NFL came under heavy scrutiny for its handling of a domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The Vikings clearly see Peterson’s case as different from an abuse case they were confronted with in 2011 involving former cornerback Chris Cook, who was accused of choking his girlfriend. Cook was initially suspended by the team before being reinstated with pay. But the Vikings barred him from all team activities, including games, while the legal process unfolded.
Cook wound up missing 10 games and was eventually acquitted. He never faced discipline from the NFL and played two more seasons with the Vikings before signing with the 49ers.
The NFL is looking into Peterson’s case, and if convicted he could face a minimum six-game suspension under the league’s new tougher domestic abuse policy that was implemented after Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he botched Rice’s initial punishment.
The Vikings’ decision to reinstate Peterson comes on the same day the NFL announced that three experts in domestic violence will serve as senior advisers to the league. Goodell sent a memo to teams Monday announcing that Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.”
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