- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

They’re back.

The NFL’s three-headed monster of Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Greg Hardy never went away, but they faded into the background for several weeks as our attention turned to touchdowns rather than beatdowns.

Now they have resurfaced, bringing the NFL’s problematic abuse cases back to the forefront, each with different shelf life.

Hardy, the Carolina Panthers defensive end whom a judge found guilty of assault in July, won’t have his jury trial until “early 2015,” according to Tuesday’s press release from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office. When the Panthers put Hardy on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list in September, GM Dave Gettleman said Hardy would not play again until his legal issues are resolved.



That could keep the issue brewing until training camp.

Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens halfback who was suspended indefinitely in September after a video showed him knocking out his wife, has begun his appeal. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is getting a taste of life from the other side of the table, an uncomfortable seat that players have grown accustomed to. It’s Goodell’s turn to be grilled, which could bring more heat on the league for initially giving Rice a two-game suspension.

He’s likely done in the NFL, but Rice’s appeal could have a lingering effect.

Which brings us to Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings halfback who, like Hardy, was placed on paid leave in September. At the time, Peterson faced a felony assault charge for whipping his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. But Peterson avoided jail time Tuesday by accepted a plea agreement on a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault.

While Rice and Hardy continue to go through the process, Peterson is done, simply waiting for reinstatement after missing half the season. Critics argue that he hasn’t been punished sufficiently.

On the contrary, this is an instance where eight is enough.

Technically, Peterson hasn’t been suspended. He’s been on a paid vacation, continuing to collect his weekly salary of $691,176 while on the exempt list. But that’s easily rectifiable.

The league can pull out its new personal conduct policy, which gives first-time domestic abuse offenders six-game suspensions without pay. Peterson can be credited with time served and docked $4.14 million — the equivalent of six paychecks.

That would be a short, sweet way to wrap up this case. Which means it’s probably out of the question.

“We will review the matter and make a determination,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement. “We cannot provide a timetable.”

Minnesota said even less.

“The Vikings are aware of today’s plea agreement involving Adrian Peterson,” the team said in a statement. “We will have further comment at the appropriate time.”

Peterson’s NFL career remains on hold, but he’ll pay his debt to society by performing 80 hours of community service, paying a $4,000 fine, attending parenting classes and spending two years on probation.

“I’m looking forward to putting this behind me and I’m anxious to continue my relationship with my child,” he told reporters outside the courthouse after his hearing. “… I truly regret this incident. I stand here and I take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine.”

Predictably, some observers believe the Vikings should cut ties and Peterson should never be allowed to take another NFL handoff.

If you want to make that argument for Rice, because that visual is ingrained in our brain forever, fine. But I don’t see Peterson in the same light, even though pictures of his 4-year-old’s welts also leave indelible impression.

Enough of us believe in “spanking” to relate to Peterson’s decision (as opposed to Rice’s action), though certainly not the severity or intensity. Even the staunchest proponents of corporal punishment should agree there’s a limit and Peterson far exceeded it, whereas there’s no acceptable amount of “discipline” for a woman.

Peterson has continued the tradition of abuse that he learned from his father. But with the aid of parenting classes and counseling, Peterson is positioned to help break the cycle in countless families. The shame and scorn — plus a retroactive suspension and $4.14 million fine — could serve him well.

“The goal here, again, is to raise greater public awareness,” Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance, told USA Today Sports. “In that way, if Adrian Peterson and the NFL takes the opportunity, it could be one that is really, in a certain way, redemptive, and a good example going forward.”

The league is still sore from all the body blows absorbed this year, rightfully so. But it shouldn’t let previous bad decisions lead to another one.

Peterson deserves to come back — lighter in the wallet and wiser up top — and there’s no reason to wait.

Let him return now and leave the stage to Rice and Hardy. Those cases are more than enough to keep the league occupied.

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