Whether the trial happens on December 1 (as tentatively scheduled) or November 18 (as, we’re told, lawyer Rusty Hardin still hopes it will start), resolution of Adrian Peterson’s child-abuse charges during the 2014 regular season will create a dilemma for the Vikings and the league.
If Peterson is exonerated, there’s no reason to continue to keep him on the rabbit-of-the-hat-or-some-other-orifice Commissioner’s exemption list. The Vikings would have to welcome him back to the active roster, or to cut him.
If he’s cut after the trade deadline, Peterson would be exposed to waivers. Assuming that no one would claim his top-o-the-market contract, Peterson then would become a free agent, free to sign with anyone he chooses. With the clean bill of legal health (sort of) that comes from an acquittal, he wouldn’t be as radioactive as he is right now.
The situation gets dicier for the league if Peterson is convicted. At that point, his legal process will be resolved. So would he be reinstated pending resolution of the case under the personal-conduct policy? Would he get credit for “time served” while awaiting trial? And if he’s prevented from playing until Peterson’s status is resolved under the personal-conduct policy, would that process be expedited?
It’ll be new territory for the NFL. Then again, maybe it won’t be. Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy is due to stand trial on domestic violence charges on November 17. Hardy’s case could set the precedent for Peterson.
Ideally, the handling of both players won’t be determined by precedent but by foresight, with the NFL deciding how these cases will be handled fairly, proactively, and transparently before the circumstances require action.
So far, action in these cases have created the impression of flying by the seat of the pants and/or shooting from the hip and/or doing both at the same time.