Having learned that the Vikings expect their embattled star running back Adrian Peterson to play against the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in six days, New Orleans coach Sean Payton told reporters at a news conference Monday, “It’s probably better to know that now than finding out later in the week and trying to prepare for all the different scenarios.”
“Look, we’re going to have to prepare to play him along with the rest of the team,” Payton added about Peterson, a three-time First-Team All-Pro and former NFL MVP. “Obviously, from a scheme standpoint, it’s significant because of his ability.”
Peterson was indicted Thursday in Texas on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He’s accused of physically abusing his 4-year-old son by hitting him with a small tree branch as a form of discipline, causing cuts and bruises.
The Vikings (1-1) deactivated Peterson in their game Sunday at home to New England, which they lost 30-7. They won their season opener a week earlier at St. Louis 34-6, and Peterson rushed for 75 yards on 21 carries.
On Monday, the Vikings said they’d decided to permit Peterson to fully participate in practices and meetings ahead of their road game in New Orleans this upcoming Sunday “after significant thought, discussion and consideration.”
“As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue,” the Vikings said in a written statement. “We felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.
“To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process, and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently, we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.”
Peterson has 10,190 ground yards and 86 rushing touchdowns in the 104 regular-season games he has played in an NFL career that began in 2007 with the Vikings. He’s lost two of the three regular-season games he’s played against the Saints in his career, and he suffered a defeat against New Orleans in an NFC Championship Game in January 2010.
The Saints won their lone Super Bowl title two weeks later.
Peterson on Monday released his own statement to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, explaining that he disciplined his son in a way that he himself had been when he was a child and caused an injury he “never intended or thought would happen.” Peterson said he voluntarily appeared before a grand jury and answered all the questions its members had, and he submitted to interviews with police from two different agencies.
“I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates,” Peterson’s statement said. “I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.
“I have learned a lot and have had to reevaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. ... I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.”
Peterson’s statement also noted he had consulted with a psychologist and learned about alternate methods of disciplining children.
Last year, in an unrelated incident, Peterson’s other son died in South Dakota after allegedly being beaten by another man.
As for the Saints, they’re 0-2 this year after a 37-34 overtime loss in Atlanta on Sept. 7 and a 26-24 setback in Cleveland this past Sunday. News circulated Monday that their leading rusher, running back Mark Ingram (24 carries, 143 yards and three touchdowns) had suffered a broken hand and could be sidelined for about a month.
The Saints have not lost in the Superdome with Payton on the sideline since the end of the 2010 season, going 8-0 in 2011 and 2013.
Payton was suspended following the bounty scandal for 2012, when the Saints were 4-4 at home.