Adrian Peterson Returns To Exempt List

SATURDAY, 11:25 am: Peterson has released a statement regarding the judge’s ruling, but he doesn’t mention the league’s anticipated appeal (via the Vikings website):

“I was pleased to learn about Judge Doty’s decision. It is a positive step in protecting players’ rights and preserving due process for all players. It also brings me one step closer to getting back on the football field and playing the sport I love. As I prepare for my return to football, I am still focused on my family and continue to work to become a better father every day. I want to express my gratitude for all of the support I have received from the fans, NFLPA, Jeffrey Kessler, and my agents Ben Dogra, Tracy Lartigue, and Mark Heligman from Relativity Sports.”

THURSDAY, 5:21pm: The Vikings released a statement regarding Peterson (via Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune on Twitter):

Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization. Today’s ruling leaves Adrian’s status under the control of the NFL, the NFLPA and the legal system, and we will have no further comment at this time.”

4:17pm: The league has officially announced that it believes Judge Doty’s ruling on Peterson is “incorrect” and confirmed it has filed an appeal to have the decision reviewed by the Eight Circuit Court (Twitter link via Garafolo). In the meantime, the Vikings running back has been placed back on the commissioner’s exempt list.

2:23pm: The NFL is expected to appeal the ruling handed down by Judge Doty, reports Ian Rapoport of (via Twitter).

12:04pm: The NFLPA has released the following statement in response to today’s ruling from Judge Doty:

“This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness. Our collective bargaining agreement has rules for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are violated, our union always stands up to protect our players’ rights. This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for the owners and good for our game.”

11:29am: Judge David Doty has ruled in favor of the NFL Players Association and Adrian Peterson, granting the union’s motion to overturn the decision on the running back’s suspension, reports Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (Twitter link). As Adam Schefter of tweets, that means Peterson should have his suspension lifted and will be reinstated, well before the April 15 date the NFL had originally planned on.NFL: Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams

After Peterson’s legal case concluded in the fall, he was removed from the commissioner’s exempt list and was suspended for the remainder of the 2014 season, with no opportunity to be reinstated until April. Arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the league’s ruling, but the NFLPA challenged Henderson’s decision, arguing that the NFL had arbitrarily changed its rules when it disciplined Peterson. It seems Doty agreed with that assessment.

While being reinstated several weeks early wouldn’t have an impact on whether or not Peterson will return to the field for 2015 – which he would have done either way – the decision should significantly affect the Vikings’ plans for him. When it looked as if Peterson wouldn’t be reinstated until at least April 15, Minnesota retained a certain amount of leverage, since the number of potential suitors for the 29-year-old would been limited — most clubs would have completed their major free agent spending by that point.

Now that Peterson figures to return to the Vikings’ active roster immediately, the team will likely make a decision on him around the time the free agent period begins. The former MVP currently counts for a $15.4MM cap hit on the Vikings’ 2015 books, and it’s unlikely the club will want to carry such a large figure for a running back who essentially sat out the entire 2014 season. The two sides could begin discussing the possibility of a pay cut, a contract restructure, or a trade, with an eye toward reaching a resolution sometime in the near future.

Of course, as is often the case with legal proceedings, Doty’s decision doesn’t necessarily signal the end of the ongoing Peterson saga. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets, the NFL has appeal rights on the judge’s ruling. Albert Breer of the NFL Network notes (via Twitter) that the league can seek an injunction to keep Peterson from being reinstated. For now, the league has simply said that it is reviewing Doty’s decision, and hasn’t suggested whether or not that decision will be challenged.

It wouldn’t be a total surprise if the NFL elected to stand down and cut its losses at this point, recognizing that Peterson will be back on the field in September regardless of whether his reinstatement comes in February or April. But it’s not a good look for the league to be overruled on this matter after having the same thing happened during Ray Rice‘s case back in November.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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