MINNEAPOLIS - If Adrian Peterson is allowed to return to the Minnesota Vikings this season, the reunion probably won't happen swiftly.
The NFL formally began a review of the star running back's case for potential punishment under the league's personal conduct policy, informing Peterson on Thursday that his status on paid leave from the Vikings will not change until completion of the process.
"The NFL has requested that Peterson submit relevant information regarding his case and meet with designated experts who will make recommendations for the commissioner's consideration," spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "Peterson also will have the opportunity to have a hearing prior to the issuance of any discipline."
Peterson pleaded no contest in Texas on Tuesday to misdemeanour reckless assault, down from a felony charge of child abuse for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. He received what's essentially two years of probation, plus a $4,000 fine and requirement to complete parenting classes and 80 hours of community service.
"Adrian wants to get on with his life and have his relationship with his son and get back to playing football," Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said after the plea agreement was reached to avoid a trial or any jail time for the 29-year-old.
Just how fast Peterson gets back to playing football is a complicated and potentially contentious matter.
A few hours after the NFL released its update, the NFL Players Association issued a statement demanding efficiency and consistency. Those traits have often been missing from the disciplinary process.
"Our union worked with the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian's representatives on a mutual agreement pending the adjudication of his legal case. Now that his legal matter is resolved, we believe it is Adrian's right to be treated in a manner that is consistent with similar cases under our collective bargaining agreement. We will pursue any and all remedies if those rights are breached," the NFLPA said.
The Vikings (4-5) are in their bye week, scheduled to reconvene for practice Monday. They play next at Chicago on Nov. 16.
With only seven games left on the schedule, the timeline is tight for a return. Commissioner Roger Goodell was excoriated for his initial leniency in the caught-on-camera knockout punch Baltimore running back Ray Rice threw at his now-wife. The league boss will be under intense scrutiny for how he handles any punishment for Peterson.
Weeks after handing Rice a two-game suspension, Goodell announced in August he was toughening the league's policy on domestic violence that now calls for a six-game suspension without pay for a first domestic violence offence.
That's not a cut-and-dry guideline in this case with Peterson, though, because he has maintained he intended no harm in seeking to discipline his son the way he was as a child growing up in Texas. His plea was not an admission of guilt, and the felony was reduced to a misdemeanour.
On the other hand, there's the firestorm to consider when the Vikings first declared on Sept. 15 that Peterson, after sitting out the home opener the day before, would remain with the team to give him his due process in the legal system.
The boy suffered cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, back and one of his testicles, according to court records, and backlash from the public was strong. One major Vikings sponsor suspended its partnership, other corporations expressed concerns to the team and the league, and Peterson was dropped as an endorser of several brands.
The Vikings then reversed course about 36 hours later, announcing that Goodell agreed to issue his special roster exemption. Peterson continued to draw his weekly in-season salary of more than $690,000, and the team was sheltered from the proverbial pitchforks that came out after their initial decision.
Peterson's admission that he smoked marijuana prior to an October court appearance is unlikely to weigh into the discipline. The league has a separate policy on substance abuse, which was revised in September and does not call for a four-game suspension until a fourth offence. Prior violations put a player in referral to the program, followed by a two-game fine and a four-game fine.
The Vikings have been quiet since Peterson's plea agreement, stating only that they will speak about his situation "at the appropriate time."
Also on Thursday, Nike confirmed it has severed its relationship with Peterson. His contract with the shoe giant had been suspended in September.
AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL