Ray Rice Saga Set The Stage For Adrian Peterson Suspension

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson has been suspended by the NFL for the remainder of the season without pay, according to multiple reports Tuesday morning, adding an exclamation point to this ongoing saga for one of the league’s best running backs.

Peterson has already missed nine games in 2014 after playing in the season opener against St. Louis, but will not return to the Minnesota Vikings for the final six games. That has been made apparent, according to commission Roger Goodell, who has ruled in congruence with the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy after Peterson pleaded “no contest” to the misdemeanor assault charges filed against him after an alleged child abuse incident.

Whether Peterson is guilty or not guilty, or even deserving of this severe of a punishment, is not up to me. But Goodell’s ruling should not come as a surprise to anybody.

It was his only move in this situation.

What happened in a related crime earlier this year involving Ray Rice and his then-fiancé has set a precedent for Goodell’s ruling in this situation. The Rice case has the makings of one of either the biggest miscommunication scandals of all time or the worst coverup that inevitably puts a black eye on both the commissioner and the league. And the latter appears the most likely turn of events.

After the casino’s video footage was revealed, the NFL was forced to hurry and suspend the running back indefinitely as an attempt to make good on their previous slap on the wrist, which looked like Goodell was letting Rice off the hook. Then when Peterson’s incident was made public, his discipline was going to be a product of both what he was accused of doing and the league’s previous mishandling of Rice’s.

The NFL has to look good in the public eye after fumbling on the Rice situation, and that means ruling hard on Peterson, whether right or not.

In regards to the legal system, Peterson’s issue is not as severe as it was once thought to be. After being indicted on a felony charge of injury to a child back in September, Peterson pleaded no contest to a lesser misdemeanor charge of reckless assault earlier this month.

However, despite the ruling in court, Goodell said Peterson’s lack of remorse set the stage for the NFL to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

“You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct,” Goodell’s letter said. “When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’

“These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

Goodell has always been known as the tough commissioner, ruling with harsh discipline to let it be known that the league will not tolerate law-breakers and misconduct away from the field. His major blip was the handling of the Ray Rice case, and you knew he wasn’t going to let Peterson off the hook to absorb even further criticism.

It’s hard to know whether this ruling would be the same if the Rice saga had not taken such a turn for the worse earlier this same season. But it did, and it magnified Goodell’s shortcoming in the public eye. Peterson’s case garnered similar national attention, and there was no room for error this time around.

Peterson can still return to the NFL, but first by completing the protocol set in place by the commissioner. This includes a counseling and treatment program, as well as a mandatory meeting by Dec. 1 with a league-appointed psychiatrist. If these requirements are not, it could spell permanent banishment from the league.

And what it comes down to is Goodell has to look good in this light, despite potentially losing the best running back the NFL has seen in quite some time.

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.