If you're an NFL player trying to control or manipulate your contractual (or in the case of Adrian Peterson, your geographical) situation, there are precious few leverage points on the NFL calendar. Contracts are very one-sided in favor of the employer, and when those leverage points come and go, there's a point of resignation where a player likely realizes he needs to just shut up and play.
Andre Johnson found this out last year when he quietly demanded a trade at right around this time in 2014, and he decided to forego OTA workouts with his teammates in order to demonstrate his stance. The team held strong, though, wanting steadfastly to have Andre Johnson as a member of the 2014 Houston Texans. Eventually, Johnson realized the only way he was getting his $10.5 million salary for 2014 was to play for the Houston Texans.
So in July 2014, Andre Johnson showed up for training camp. And after months of hemming and hawing and attempted strong-arming, Adrian Peterson realized there was only one way he'd get paid this season — he needs to be a Minnesota Viking. On Tuesday morning, as reported by ESPN's Josina Anderson, Peterson decided to report to Vikings OTA's.
Filed to ESPN: #Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has informed me that he's in Minnesota and that he's planning to attend OTAs starting today.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) June 2, 2015
On the surface, Peterson has handled his business far more vocally than Johnson did last year, but he has been seeking the same outcome — a way out of his current situation with his current employer, something Peterson has been clamoring for since about the time the league dropped a suspension on him late last year in the wake of his plea agreement on child abuse charges in Montgomery County here in the Houston area.
The combination of the league's placing Peterson on the Exempt List during his trial and the subsequent suspension forced him to miss most of the 2014 season. The suspension ended on April 15 of this year, but Peterson's trade demands to the Vikings remained. He felt the team didn't "have his back" when he was enduring his legal travails last year. (Never mind that Peterson's legal travails cost the team millions in lost sponsorship dollars when it all came down last September.)
Peterson had been demanding a trade despite having three years remaining on a contract that is scheduled to pay him more than $38 million during those three seasons. Peterson isn't guaranteed a single dollar of that $38 million, an inherent blow to his leverage in this situation.
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If Peterson were going to get traded by the Vikings, it would likely have been for draft choices, so when the 2015 NFL Draft came and went in early May, another major leverage point for Peterson was gone. Peterson continued to try to strong-arm the Vikings publicly, and even at one point last week raged on Twitter against the NFL machine and its "one-sided" contracts. He repeated some compelling points about NFL contracts that many have made over the past few years.
There was only one problem — Peterson, y'know, actually signed one of these contracts. He was powerless.
Eventually, Peterson apparently realized two things —
1. He could stay away from the Vikings and just not play football; however, there are probably not a lot of jobs out there where Adrian Peterson can make more than $12 million in the next several months.
2. He is 30 years old, and his window to pile onto his already Hall of Fame résumé is shrinking, and quite honestly, with Peterson in camp and playing, the Vikings all of a sudden become an interesting dark horse in the NFC, assuming Teddy Bridgewater's rookie year progress equates to a leap in Year 2.
“I decided to come back just to get around my teammates and the coaching staff,” Peterson told Anderson. “There’s never been any love lost with those guys. Basically it’s time for me to come in and test the waters and re-familiarize myself with our offense and the direction they’re trying to go in.”
The easy translation here — the Vikings were never going to trade this millennium's greatest NFL running back. Time for Adrian Peterson to get back to work.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.