The Minnesota Vikings reinstated star running back Adrian Peterson on Monday, three days after benching him because he was facing a child-abuse charge in Texas for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son.
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said the decision to bring back Peterson for practices and Sunday's game at New Orleans was made "after significant thought, discussion and consideration." Peterson was deactivated for Sunday's 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots after he was charged with striking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch this summer.
The Wilfs say they want to let the legal process play out before making any more definitive decisions on Peterson's future with the team.
"As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday's game, this is clearly a very important issue," the owners said. "On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.
"To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward."
Peterson's attorney issued a statement on Friday saying his client acknowledged striking his son as a form of discipline similar to what Peterson endured as a young boy growing up in Palestine, Texas. He said Peterson was cooperating with the investigation and did not mean to inflict any harm on his son.
Hours later, the Vikings decided not to play Peterson against the Patriots, moving swiftly after a week in which the NFL came under heavy scrutiny for its handling of a domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
But unlike a previous domestic abuse case involving former cornerback Chris Cook, the Vikings have decided to allow Peterson to return to the field while the legal process unfolds.
In 2011, the Vikings suspended cornerback Chris Cook with pay after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and barred him from all team activities while his trial played out. Cook wound up missing 10 games and was eventually acquitted. He never faced discipline from the NFL and played two more seasons with the Vikings before signing with the San Francisco 49ers.
The NFL is looking into Peterson's case, and if convicted he could face a minimum six-game suspension under the league's new tougher domestic abuse policy that was implemented after Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he botched Rice's initial punishment.