National Football League

By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
More shades of gray in Peterson case
Adrian Peterson Adrian Peterson's story is far different from Ray Rice's or
any of the other domestic violence issues facing the NFL.
Philadelphia, PA ( - We are all good guys right up until we're not.

In my home of Philadelphia there is a well-known former sportscaster who kind of turned "good guy" into his trademark, always using the phrase and actually morphing into the ultimate "good guy" around town thanks to his tireless charitable work, efforts that continued right up until his last high- paying gig in television was taken from him and that charitable work turned into a front for swindling people.

If you would have asked me about some of the "good guys" I've meet over the years in my sojourns covering the NFL, names I might have mentioned right up until their respective downfalls would include pariahs like O.J. Simpson and Darren Sharper, as well as, you guessed it, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

And I'm not running from that fact nor backing off from it. To me, those who paint any of those men as the portrait of evil with a failure to at least humanize other aspects of their lives before the bad times are the ones lying to you.

The human condition is flawed by its very nature and we all are capable of both good deeds and incredibly bad ones, with the wrong negative action capable of erasing a lifetime of doing the right thing.

This isn't about excuses, however. Somewhere along the line, the negativity engulfed Simpson and Sharper and few deserve their respective fates more. Rice, meanwhile, will remain the poster child of domestic violence moving forward, and Peterson may ultimately be tagged with the label of child abuser for the rest of his life.

Faced with a possible life-altering moment born out of rage, most believe they would pass that test and come out unscathed. And perhaps that's why we judge those who don't so harshly.

Just understand, though, that game is never over until you've taken your last breath.

One of the things the legal process tries to do is take the emotion out of any equation with logic being the ultimate goal. It's an impossible line to reach of course because we are a species governed by emotion, which is why video and photographic evidence is so powerful.

Peterson, the 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player, became the latest blight to "the Shield" during the week from hell after being indicted in his native Texas on Friday for reckless or negligent injury to a child. He was taken into custody early Saturday morning in Montgomery County and subsequently released on $15,000 bond.

Unlike other teams facing similar dilemmas, the Minnesota Vikings acted quickly, deactivating Peterson for what turned out to be a 30-7 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Houston television station KRIV first reported that Peterson had been summoned by a grand jury in Montgomery County on the charges, which involved the disciplining of one of his sons with a switch, generally a tree branch used in many Southern cultures to "whoop" a child, the exact terminology Peterson used when texting the child's mother to alert her of the corporal punishment.

Rusty Hardin, Peterson's high-profile lawyer, later released a statement, trying to explain Peterson's thought process.

"Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son," Hardin explained. "He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas. Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours."

There's a profound disconnect in this country between the perceived cultural elites and those they look down upon. The joke in journalism circles is that the media will fly from the East Coast to the West and vice versa with no idea of what is going on beneath them.

There are plenty of people, particular Southerners, who believe that using a switch to discipline their children is not only acceptable, it's commonplace, while others who saw the pictures of the welts on Peterson's son now believe the All-Pro is a real life monster.

There are at least two sides to every story and in this one, there are probably five: Peterson's, the child's, the prosecutor's, the general public's and the truth.

"It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury," Hardin said.

None of us knows if Hardin's spin is really true but it is at least plausible.

My own experience tells me my father used a belt to discipline me and while there was no photographic evidence, if there was I'm quite sure it would have shown some welts and at times, some pretty significant ones.

By no means am I trying to disparage the memory of my father either. To this day I never thought I was being beaten by him and nothing will ever change that fact for me. He felt he was doing it for my own good and I don't disagree with that premise while at the same time acknowledging there were probably better ways to accomplish the same goals.

That said, people like Peterson need to understand the norms in society are constantly evolving and you can either conform or risk being the outcast.

It's no longer acceptable to do what Peterson did to his child and his ultimate punishment here, likely probation (the probable legal outcome) and a significant NFL suspension, is not only a testament to that, it's a prudent penalty.

As far as the Vikings, it's conceivable they could release Peterson because the team isn't ready to compete with or without him as evidenced by their dreadful performance against the Pats. Meanwhile, Peterson's salary cap figure moving forward after this season is untenable.

"Friday night was the first we heard of the formal allegations against Adrian Peterson, and we decided, as an organization, that to deactivate him this weekend was in the best interest of everybody concerned," Vikings GM Rick Spielman told ESPN. "We are, as an organization, still in the process of gathering information, and at the end of the weekend we will discuss what we will do going forward."

Like most NFL authority figures these days, it's tough to buy Spielman's claims that he didn't know anything considering Peterson was given two days off from training camp for a "personal issue" (testifying before the grand injury) and was given a "veteran's day" off on Thursday, the day before the you know what hit the fan.

"You don't want to make any knee-jerk reactions," Spielman continued. "All options are on the table. You can't take any options off the table because we're still gathering information."

In this case "gathering information," means measuring the mob mentality which is circling Peterson, Rice, Roger Goodell, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald.

The Vikings barely acknowledged Peterson's existence when addressing the media after their setback to the Pats.

For me, I'll continue to play the contrarian, the realist and more importantly the pragmatist who understands life is messy and you handle things as they come.

Peterson's story is far different from Rice's or any of the other domestic violence issues facing Goodell and no personal-conduct policy can put together a structured penalty which addresses everything fairly and correctly.

That's where an arbiter with credibility could help and, unfortunately, that's exactly what the NFL lacks.

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