4:15pm: Arbitrator Shyam Das has made his decision on the NFLPA’s grievance, ruling that the NFL can keep Peterson on its exempt list, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (via Twitter). That means that the issue of whether the running back should have been removed from the commissioner’s exempt list following the conclusion of his legal case has been resolved, and the only way Peterson will see the field again this season is if he wins his appeal of today’s suspension.
9:07am: The league and the union continue to volley Peterson-related statements back and forth. An NFL spokesman has responded to the NFLPA’s claim that a league exec told Peterson his stint on the exempt list would be considered time served: “There were aggravating circumstances in this case. The time he missed on paid leave was taken into account in the discipline” (Twitter links via Albert Breer of NFL.com).
8:03am: The NFLPA didn’t waste any time releasing a statement of its own, calling the discipline imposed by the league “inconsistent” with previously established policies and penalties. Indicating that an NFL executive told Peterson his time on the exempt list would be considered time served, the union announced it will appeal the suspension and demand that a neutral arbitrator oversees that appeal.
7:48am: The NFL announced today that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended without pay for at least the rest of the 2014 season, tweets Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. According to Garafolo (via Twitter), the league informed Peterson that he won’t be considered for reinstatement before April 15, 2015. A source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that the star running back will immediately appeal the suspension.
The league has released a lengthy statement explaining its decision, which arose as a result of Peterson violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy in an incident of abusive discipline toward his four-year-old son. Modifications earlier this year to the league’s personal conduct policy – specifically for incidents of domestic violence – dictated a ban of at least six games for a first offense, with the possibility for a stricter penalty if there were “aggravating circumstances.” In Peterson’s case, commissioner Roger Goodell identified multiple aggravating circumstances, including the fact that the victim was only four years old, and that Peterson’s camp didn’t provide information requested by the league during the process.
“You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Peterson. “When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”
Although the NFL’s policy on personal conduct suggests at least a six-game suspension for such a violation, there was some uncertainty about the league’s decision in this case, since Peterson accepted a no-contest plea and had already sat out for the majority of the season, having been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. In appealing the suspension, the NFLPA will likely point to that absence as time served, despite the fact that Peterson was still being paid during that de facto suspension.
Peterson and the NFLPA have three days to formally appeal the NFL’s ruling, and the league indicated in its statement that a hearing will be “scheduled promptly” once that appeal is filed. During the appeal process, Peterson will remain on the exempt list and will continue to be paid until a final decision is made.
Assuming the suspension stands, Peterson will be required to undergo a counseling and treatment program and will be subject to periodic reviews from the league and Goodell — the first of which will happen on or around April 15. The league’s statement also advises Peterson that to be considered for reinstatement in 2015, he must have no further violations of the law or of league policy.
“It is imperative that you to avoid any incident of this kind in the future,” Goodell said in his letter. “Any further violation of the personal conduct policy will result in additional discipline and may subject you to banishment from the NFL.”
Even in the event that the suspension stands and Peterson is reinstated by the league in the spring, it’s hard to imagine the running back returning to the Vikings for the 2015 season, particularly on his current contract. That deal calls for a base salary of $12.75MM and an overall cap hit of $15.4MM next year, which is an exorbitant cost for any running back, given the current market. If the team does eventually cut Peterson, it’ll be interesting to see which club will be willing to take a shot on him, especially since teams have typically already made their major free agent expenditures before mid-April.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.