Adrian Peterson Will Avoid Jail Time with No Contest Plea, and Now Roger Goodell Must Act Quickly


Adrian Peterson pled no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault, while not formally admitting guilt for violence against a minor or family violence. In doing so, he will avoid jail time as a first time offender, and will be placed on probation, pay a $4,000 fine, and have 80 hours of community service. The “no contest” plea allowed the judge to make findings on underlying facts presented by the prosecutor that Peterson will not contest, but Peterson doesn’t make admissions that could be used against him in other proceedings (like a civil suit). Still, for NFL purposes, it is a resolution to his legal issues, and one which would allow the imposition of any further punishment.

The big issue now is what becomes of Adrian Peterson with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings, as you recall, were at first willing to let the legal process to play out, and let Peterson keep playing, until public outcry and the backlash from sponsors caused an about face. Goodell was under fire at the time in the immediate aftermath of the Ray Rice suspension. The resolution of Peterson going on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List was a face-saving compromise across all fronts. Goodell, taking on plenty of water, didn’t have to jump in and have everyone question whatever decision he made. Peterson, facing public backlash and outcry, still got paid for agreeing to take time off. The Vikings, getting blasted publicly, were able to reverse course and get Peterson off the field in a situation that they vastly miscalculated.

But now, if it is resolved legally and Peterson has negotiated a result that keeps him from serving jail time? Remember, the rationale for putting him on this paid leave list:

"In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian."

Now that the legal proceedings appear to be resolved, that rationale is gone. Now, it’s a matter of where there is punishment. Of course, Goodell is a little tied up this week with testifying in the Ray Rice matter tomorrow. Still, this cannot be a situation that lingers. It’s not as if there hasn’t been two months to consider this scenario, which I thought seemed like the most likely outcome at the time the Vikings placed him on the exempt list. (“My guess: this is able to get resolved fairly quickly, before the end of this current season, with pressure to return prompting action rather than delay from Peterson’s perspective . . . they’ll be able to resolve charges if the prosecutor will consider a plea bargain that does not involve jail time.”)

Should the eight weeks be considered “time served” on a “suspension but not officially a suspension” scenario? After all, it was a *wink*wink*nudge*nudge* case of coming up with a little-used scenario. In any event, Peterson should not be on the exempt list anymore. The commissioner should act. My guess this time around? Peterson got paid during that period and it’s not the same as a full suspension. I could see a hefty fine, and an additional 2-3 games with a date certain.

When, in response to the Vikings’ initial handling of Peterson’s reinstatement in the face of clear statements by him in the investigation, and photos of injuries, I said it sent the wrong message, I also said:

"So I don’t know that there is a “correct number of games” that he must sit. I do know that the handling yesterday was not it. I’ll be ready to watch Adrian Peterson again when I hear from him (not a slickly crafted press release written by someone else) that he is aware of what he did, did not intend harm, but now recognizes that he must change his behavior. I’ll be ready when the Minnesota Vikings aren’t ambivalent on whether or not leaving stripe marks on a child is appropriate."

People make mistakes and we are forgiving. I don’t think this is a case where Adrian Peterson cannot come back this year. I do think Goodell–for the first time in a while–needs to be the public face of the NFL and make a legitimate and quick decision.