Adrian Peterson was back at Minnesota Vikings headquarters on Monday, and the first thing fullback Jerome Felton did when he saw his star running back was give him a high-five.
While many of Peterson's teammates welcomed him back and threw their support behind the embattled former MVP, the Vikings also faced plenty of criticism for deciding to let Peterson play while facing charges of child abuse.
The Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship deal with the Vikings and former players like Cris Carter and Scott Fujita lined up to question the team's motives while Peterson insisted that he was not a child abuser.
In a statement Monday, Minnetonka-based Radisson said it "takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children." Radisson says it's suspending its limited sponsorship of the Vikings "while we evaluate the facts and circumstances."
"I understand that this is a very difficult thing to handle," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. "But we also feel strongly as an organization that this is disciplining a child. Whether it's an abusive situation or not, or whether he went too far disciplining, we feel very strongly that that is the court's decision to make, but we also understand the seriousness of abusing children as well."
Radisson is the first company to back away from a sponsorship deal since the league has been facing criticism over its handling of domestic violence cases. Radisson's sponsorship includes a press banner that is behind those speaking at Vikings news conferences. The banner was behind Spielman as he discussed the team's decision to reinstate Peterson.
Peterson faces a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, which carries penalties of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His initial court appearance in Conroe, Texas, near Houston, was scheduled for Oct. 8.
After deactivating Peterson for the 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday while they gathered more information on the face of the franchise's indictment, the Vikings reinstated Peterson on Monday and said they expected him to play against the New Orleans Saints next weekend. Peterson is accused of using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son.
Peterson didn't talk to reporters, but did issue a statement through his agency that said he wanted "everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child."
"I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser," Peterson said in a nearly 500-word statement. "I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury.
"No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that's what I tried to do that day."
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf made the decision after consulting with Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer and the players who were available to the media on Monday lined up to support it.
"We've just got to stick together. That's how the best teams win games and that's how the best teams grow as a team and (build) team chemistry," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "The best thing we can do right now is support the Minnesota Vikings, support the decisions that they made to reinstate Adrian Peterson and fully support Adrian. "
"I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct," Peterson said. "Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person."
Corporal punishment is legal in Texas and non-deadly force against a child by a parent or guardian is permissible. But the punishment is abusive if it causes injury. A blow that leaves a bruise, welt or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive. The guidelines also say use of an instrument "is cause for concern."
"If anyone in your family, if someone does something you disagree with, you're still going to love them," backup quarterback Christian Ponder said. "We love Adrian. We're here to support him through everything that is going on. I'm not going to comment on whether I agree or disagree with what happened. That's his decision as a father, and he may or may not pay the penalty as he goes through what he's going through down in Texas."
Spielman said the Vikings have seen files the authorities have built on Peterson's case, including some photos of the injuries the boy sustained.
"The photos are disturbing. I understand that," Spielman said. "But to be clear, any matter that's involving the child is very important for this organization. But we also think it is right for him to go through the process legally."
The Vikings clearly see Peterson's case as different from the 2011 case involving former cornerback Chris Cook, who was accused of choking his girlfriend and charged with domestic assault. Cook was suspended by the team, reinstated with pay and then barred from all team activities, including games, while the legal process unfolded.
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 49ers.
The Vikings also cut cornerback A.J. Jefferson last year, less than a day after he was arrested for domestic assault. In 2012, the Vikings cut practice squad running back Caleb King hours after he was released from jail after allegedly inflicting serious harm on another man in a fight.
"Why are due process rights only reserved for the privileged (and) for those at the top of the roster?" Fujita tweeted.
But Spielman steadfastly denied the team's decision on Peterson had anything to do with his status as one of the best players in the league and his ability to help the team win.
"It has nothing to do with him as a football player," Spielman said. "It's based purely on the facts that we have that have been presented to us."
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