EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Adrian Peterson has had the potential to be that rare post-modern NFL running back playing productively into his 30s. After that extraordinary comeback from knee reconstruction, Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record became a realistic if daunting target.
The latest challenge for Peterson has taken a dark turn, though, with league-wide trouble involving domestic violence cases as the backdrop.
Placed on indefinite paid leave by the Minnesota Vikings to focus on his personal life, with a felony child abuse charge against him pending in Texas, Peterson could be finished playing for the year. In 2015, when a trial is expected, he will be 30.
This isn’t the career trajectory anyone could have expected following the 2,097 yards he gained in that 2012 season to win the NFL MVP award.
“We felt it was best for him to step away,” said general manager Rick Spielman, whose first draft pick with the Vikings was Peterson in the first round in 2007. The roster has been shaped around him ever since.
Spielman didn’t directly answer questions Wednesday about whether releasing Peterson was considered or if he would play for the Vikings again. Peterson’s salary for 2014 is $11.75 million. His contract has three years left after this, but the Vikings could cut him after the season for a minimal salary-cap hit or restructure the deal.
“We are going to let the legal process and his personal matters take care of themselves, and he will remain on this exempt list until that is accomplished,” Spielman said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the sole authority to grant and lift the exemption, which retains Peterson’s rights for the Vikings without counting against their roster limit. It’s available for use “only in unusual circumstances,” according to league policy.
Unusual circumstances: exactly what has been going on around the NFL lately.
Another Pro Bowl player, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, wasn’t coincidentally placed on the exempt list on Wednesday after three weeks of indecision regarding his status.
Hardy was convicted in July of assault on a female and communicating threats after the victim said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound player threw her in the bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her. Hardy has appealed the ruling, and a jury trial is set for November.
Hours later, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on aggravated assault charges in connection with two altercations at his home in July involving an unidentified woman and their 18-month-old child.
Peterson has been accused of injuring his 4-year-old son by spanking him with a wooden switch, an act he admitted to but insisted he meant no harm and was merely administering the same type of corporal punishment he experienced as a youth.
The league began to feel backlash in July after a two-game suspension of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was widely decried as too soft.