MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson’s future with the Minnesota Vikings dimmed further Tuesday, with the NFL suspending the star running back without pay for at least the rest of the season.

As his representatives initiated an appeal, Peterson remained at the center of an escalating dispute between the league and the NFL Players Association over the player discipline process.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told Peterson he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the NFL personal conduct policy — the first example of a crackdown on players involved with domestic violence.

The NFLPA quickly announced it would immediately appeal, calling for a neutral arbitrator to handle it, and sharply rebuked the league for what it labeled as inconsistency and unfairness in determining the discipline. The NFL’s words were even stronger, with a nearly 1,600-word statement spelling out the conditions for Peterson’s path to return to the field and describing the reasons for the stiff punishment.

Peterson pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault in Texas for injuries to his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. He said he intended no harm, only discipline. Peterson was on a special exempt list at the sole discretion of Goodell, essentially paid leave while the case went through the legal system.

The NFLPA said Peterson was told that would count as time served toward a suspension, citing an unidentified NFL executive.

STEELERS

TEAM RELEASES RB BLOUNT: The Pittsburgh Steelers released running back LeGarrette Blount.

The move came less than 24 hours after Blount left the field early in a victory over the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. Blount was in for just one play during Pittsburgh’s comeback 27-24 win and watched teammate Le’Veon Bell run for 204 yards and a touchdown.

The Steelers signed Blount to a two-year deal in the offseason hoping he would provide some muscle near the goal line. He rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown in a Week 3 win over Carolina but saw his playing time diminish in recent games.

Blount also ran into trouble off the field. He was cited for marijuana possession during a traffic stop in August.

BROWNS

RB TATE WAIVED: The Browns waived disgruntled running back Ben Tate, who had just two carries in Sunday’s loss to Houston, his former team.

Tate signed as a free agent with Cleveland in March to be their every-down back. He rushed for 333 yards this season, but his playing time had dwindled with the emergence of rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West.

Browns general manager Ray Farmer explained the move in a release by saying “it will always be our intent to do what is best for our football team.”

BRONCOS

CB BAILEY MAKES RETIREMENT OFFICIAL: Champ Bailey said goodbye to the NFL on Tuesday after signing a ceremonial one-day contract with his beloved Denver Broncos.

Bailey retired with a dozen Pro Bowl selections, 52 interceptions and no regrets.

Dozens of current players joined former teammates including John Lynch, Brandon Stokley, Brian Dawkins, Jake Plummer and Rod Smith in celebrating Bailey’s unparalleled career.

Bailey signed with the Saints in the offseason but was cut in August.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday he has probably given up hope of defensive end Greg Hardy playing this season following the NFL’s decision to suspend Peterson. Hardy was placed on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list Sept. 17, two months after being convicted on two counts of domestic violence. ... San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman was scheduled for his first practice of the season Tuesday, officially opening a 21-day window during which the team can decide whether to activate him or send him to the injured reserve list.