Once again, Fantasy Football owners find themselves asking about a player seeking reinstatement. First there was Josh Gordon, then Ray Rice, then Adrian Peterson and Wes Welker, then Josh Gordon again – it never seems to end. Everybody wants an edge over the competition, so the questions about Adrian Peterson’s return to the Vikings are flowing into the RotoExperts Email Advice service by the dozen.
Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault; he received a $4000 fine and 80 hours of community service, and the court will defer a finding of guilt for two years. Originally, he faced a felony charge of injury to a child for “disciplining” his four-year-old son with a wooden switch. Peterson could have faced a $10,000 fine and two years in prison if found guilty.
Peterson’s camp immediately appealed to the NFL for reinstatement following the plea deal, but the league denied the appeal and refused to engage in settlement talks about his playing status. He remains on the Commissioner’s-exempt list, where he’s been since Week 3 of the season. The NFL has announced that they will review the court documents and come to a determination of Peterson’s status but they stopped short of offering a timetable. Only the Commissioner can reinstate a player on the exempt list, which is a little known and rarely used designation within the NFL Player Policy Manual.
So, what is a Fantasy owner to do? Most Fantasy analysts seem to think it’s wise to hedge your bets and grab Peterson now, especially if you’re in contention for a playoff spot. The logic being applied here is that if you don’t add Peterson, your opponent almost certainly will. Then you’ll have to play against Peterson, potentially during your Fantasy playoffs or championship game. While I can see the merit in their argument, I’m not at all sure that anyone is going to be using Peterson on their Fantasy team any time soon.
Before looking ahead, let’s take a quick look back to when all this first began during the first week of the season. If you remember as I do, Peterson was benched for the Vikings’ Week 2 matchup against the New England Patriots, just two days before the game. The team wanted to “do the right thing” and give Peterson a chance to get his legal issues settled. After getting trounced by the Patriots, the Vikings announced that Peterson would be reinstated and allowed to play until the legal process played out. Not 48 hours later, after several of the Vikings’ sponsors expressed their outrage, the Vikings backpedaled on their previous support of Peterson, and the Commissioner’s office offered the team a way out that would please everyone – except Peterson, of course. That’s when Peterson was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list, the previously mentioned NFL form of “double secret probation” that allowed him to be paid, but barred him from all team activities until further notice.
Looking ahead now to the next steps for Peterson’s reinstatement, all we know for sure is that nothing will happen until Roger Goodell says it happens. However, let’s assume that the league decides to let Peterson play again. Let’s further assume that the Vikings decide to allow him to come back to the team to practice and perhaps play. Do you really believe that either of those entities has the final say here? I believe the answer is no, resoundingly no, as a matter of fact. Remember, it was the sponsors of the Vikings that finally got things moving in the first place, and I believe that the sponsors are also going to have the last word. Adrian Peterson isn’t going to play football until “the money” has had the final say.
If the sponsors of the Vikings, and indeed the NFL at large, decide that Peterson’s image is something they want nothing to do with, and they threaten to withdraw their support and sponsorship of the team and/or the league, then he is not going to be playing any football for any team this season. Personally, I don’t see how anything is changed by Peterson’s plea agreement. Yes, he expressed some remorse over the events that brought us to this crossroad, but nothing at all has changed. He still did what he did, and nobody is going to want to be associated with that – least of all the sponsors that pony up their money to bask in the NFL’s glory. The whole Peterson affair is a huge black eye on the NFL and it always will be. The sponsors are going to balk if Peterson is brought back this season, and for that reason, Fantasy owners should not waste their roster space or FAAB money on him. It’s just not going to happen; not when “the money” gets the final word.