The NFL's horrific spate of off-field crimes, and the subsequent public relations disasters that came along with them (through both the sheer quantity and the violent nature of the incidents, as well as the botched handling of them by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell), are well documented.
Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, two of the top running backs in the NFL over the past decade, were the most famous of the perpetrators, Rice in the domestic abuse case against his then-fiancée, and Peterson in his child abuse case in Montgomery County involving his four-year-old son.
And while Rice's appeal to his indefinite suspension is coming up later this week, it appears that a resolution in the Peterson case may be on the horizon.
According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Peterson will reportedly plead no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault. This comes with just a few weeks remaining before Peterson would stand trial to felony child abuse charges, charges to which Peterson has maintained his innocence:
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Peterson will plead no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault. The plea will not include reference to family violence or violence against a minor.
If the agreement is accepted by Judge Kelly Case, Peterson will pay a $2,000 fine, be placed on probation, and perform 80 hours of community service. Technically, the adjudication of the case will be deferred for two years.
Only Peterson and his attorney Rusty Hardin know the driving reasons behind Peterson's decision and change of heart to accepting a plea (as opposed to maintaining full innocence), but there is the chance now that he could get back on the field, depending on how the league and commissioner Roger Goodell decide to handle him.
Since the charges were filed against Peterson back in early September, after Week 1 of the NFL season, the Vikings star running back has been on the Exempt/Commissioner's Permission List, which has essentially amounted to a paid suspension over the last eight weeks. It's fairly obvious that the league sees Peterson's transgressions as a punishable offense of some sort (why else would he be on the Exempt list?), but the question becomes do they see the time that he has been required to miss over the last several weeks as "time served"?
Also, if they do see it as "time served," is eight games enough of a suspension, or will they tack more on? And because Peterson's been paid over that eight week time frame, will he have to pay a fine of some sort, given that suspensions for conduct policy are generally unpaid?
It will be interesting to see the public reaction to whatever the league decides to do, given how appalled the public was at Rice's initial two game suspension, and subsequently how spineless the league appeared when they banned Rice indefinitely after video surfaced with no new evidence of Rice doing anything except what he was suspended for in the first place. (I point that out not to defend Rice's actions, only to reinforce how haphazard and reactionary Goodell's discipline has been in the Rice case.)
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Florio points out correctly, for the league, and maybe even more for Goodell, decisiveness is of the utmost importance. If the league has been doing their job in tandem with Peterson's legal saga, then hopefully they've been conferring with experts who can help them determine an appropriate punishment for an offense that everyone seems to realize has a lot more gray area than Rice's.
If the legal matters are all resolved this week, Peterson could theoretically be back on the field this weekend for the Vikings game with the Bears. Given reaction from several sponsors of the Vikings, though, when this story first broke, it may not be that simple.
The legal drama for Adrian Peterson appears to be over before it really started. His professional drama may just be beginning.