As expected, the NFL Players Assn. filed suit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, arguing that Peterson was promised by league executive Troy Vincent that he could return to the field this season after serving a two-game suspension in the wake of his legal issues. Peterson pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault charges for striking his 4-year-old son with a switch.
Instead of allowing Peterson to return this season, however, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him until at least April 15. Last week, that suspension was upheld by arbitrator Harold Henderson, the NFL’s former vice president for labor relations, who concluded that Peterson did not demonstrate “that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent.”
The NFLPA disputed the fairness of Henderson’s decision, saying it “was rendered by an evidently partial arbitrator who exceeded the scope of his authority.”
During the appeal, Vincent denied telling Peterson that his suspension would be limited to two games, and that “I didn’t promise Adrian anything.” However, an audiotape of a phone conversation between Peterson and Vincent obtained by ABC News appears to contradict that denial. The NFL has said that Vincent was not speaking on behalf of the league, anyway.
On the tape, Vincent tells Peterson he would be suspended two games and get credit for time served on the commissioner’s exempt list. Peterson asks whether his suspension will be lifted after two games:
“Yeah, that is it … but you cannot … you got … you’ve got to act. You gotta just go through the process,” Vincent says.
Later in the call, Vincent voices his support for Peterson, the league’s most valuable player in 2012.
“I gave you my word the other day. I think we looked at each other and in my heart, I’m praying that we can just get your family restored and get you back on this field so that you can continue to be the ballplayer, the citizen, the father, the husband that God’s called you to be,” Vincent said. “You’ve done a lot, paid … paid a price and I think everybody is … everybody understands that.”
In his decision on Friday, Henderson wrote that Peterson’s public comments “do not reflect remorse or appreciation for the seriousness of his actions and their impact on his family, community, fans and the NFL, although at the close of the hearing he said he has learned from his mistake, he regrets that it happened and it will never happen again.”