Did the NFL Lie to Adrian Peterson About Playing This Season?

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As of now, Adrian Peterson is suspended for the entirety of the 2014 NFL season. This is not new, but it does signify that Peterson’s appeal, which was formally denied on Friday, will not be upheld. You could say that this is an example of the NFL actually getting something right — Peterson, one of the league’s premier running backs, was suspended after he plead no contest to hitting his 4-year-old son with a switch. But it appears that the reality, as with everything else to do with the NFL’s forays into morality, is not quite so simple.

In fact, it appears that the league’s executive VP of football operations, Troy Vincent, assured Peterson that the suspension was just going to be for two games, rather than the indefinite one he’s serving now. We know this because there’s a recording of it, and Peterson’s lawyers have made that recording public.

“Really, it’s just next week and you will be back,” Vincent says on the recording, courtesy of ABC News, when asked about additional games that Peterson would be required to take off. This conversation took place almost a week before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued Peterson the indefinite suspension. Later in the recording, Vincent is heard saying that All Day “will be reinstated and back with [the Minnesota Vikings] you know, potentially the … you know, that next week.”

This would seem to be a far cry from what actually happened earlier in December, when an independent arbiter ruled that there was “no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.” Peterson’s suspension, which began in earnest on November 18, will hold through the first three weeks of the 2015 season if it is not changed at all. But does evidence of the phone call change anything? Could we be seeing the return of All Day before then?

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As you might expect, the NFLPA is filing suit on behalf of Peterson — which is not necessarily an indication that the organization agrees with him, since it files appeals on behalf of every NFL player — but that’s not likely to result in him seeing the field any time this year.

Instead, the focus seems to be on “securing reinstatement for Peterson as early as possible in the offseason, so that he’s not required to wait until April 15 for the NFL to revisit his status,” according to Pro Football Talk. The report also detailed that the NFLPA is arguing that “the suspension reflects a retroactive application of a new policy, that the arbitrator was not impartial, and that the suspension imposes discipline not permitted by the labor deal.”

The new policy, of course, refers to the new personal conduct policy the league officially unveiled last week. It’s a policy that’s been loudly criticized as being largely the same as the previous one, which many people (rightly) saw as lacking. The ultimate outcome? We’re almost certain that Peterson will be cleared to play for the entirety of 2015. He’s too good, and therefore too valuable, to the NFL, for anything else to really be the case.