With Adrian Peterson, the NFL finally gets it right

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Go back to September. We were outraged. We were embarrassed. And more than anything, we were done. Video of Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious followed by pictures of the four-year-old son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with whip marks on his body was more than we could bear. We wanted a culture change and we wanted it now. We took to social media. We threatened to boycott (I didn’t, but others did). And the National Football League responded.

Armed with new advisors, new guidelines, and a new zero-tolerance stance on domestic violence, the NFL conducted a test of its revised personal conduct policy. And on Tuesday, Adrian Peterson became its poster boy.

In a statement released by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that contrary to popular belief, Peterson would not be eligible for reinstatement by the league until April 15, 2015 at the earliest. His conditions (which include counseling, therapy, and community service) and reasoning were clearly spelled out in a letter addressed to Peterson and made public through the media.

“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old.  The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child.


Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.


Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.  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.”


-NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Adrian Peterson

In the end, Goodell left no room for doubt. It’s not perfect. There are still ethical, legal, and procedural issues to navigate. But in one long overdue ruling, the NFL finally demonstrated it’s not messing around when it comes to violence against women and children.

And for the first time in months, I was proud.


Dear Adrian Peterson, You’re No Hero


Dear Adrian Peterson,

This is a letter I never thought I would have to write. I’m just so sad, disappointed, and mad.

Maybe this one hits closer to home because I grew up a Vikings fan in Minnesota. I have family there. I have nieces and nephews who’ve been running around in your jersey since they were old enough to walk, and whose proudest moment in life was the day they got to meet you and shake your hand.

Now someone has to tell those kids that you won’t be playing on Sunday. Because you went to jail for beating a child. A child not much younger than they are.

Yes Adrian, I’m sad for the kids I love. But not nearly as sad as I am for the kids you love. They have a star football player as their daddy. The guy they look up to, the guy everyone looks up to, the guy they see on TV, the guy who all their friends want to meet…and the guy who beats them with belts and tree branches when no one else is around.

And yet, they still love you. And they still idolize you. Because you’re their daddy. And they don’t know any better.

But you, Adrian, you know better. I don’t care how you were raised in East Texas. I don’t care if your daddy “whooped” you growing up. Physical abuse of a child is not an “act of love.” And no one should know that better than you. You lost a child (a son you had never met) at the hands of another man, who delivered a beating so severe his poor little body couldn’t recover.

And you know what? While people were defending you, calling for your privacy, asking us not to judge, I was judging you, Adrian. I judged you for having a two-year-old son you never met. I’m still judging you for it. And the fact that you did the same thing to your other kids, only to a lesser degree, well…I’ll judge you for that for the rest of my life. And yours.

We’ve been talking all week about the damage a football player can do to a woman. But anyone can harm a child. It’s just that most of us choose not to.

I think it’s time we redefine what makes someone a hero. It’s not throwing a ball, catching a ball, or running fast while holding a ball.

A hero is someone who protects.

You’re no hero, Adrian.

Now, someone’s got to tell the kids that.

The Tale of the Bandwagon Fan

Once upon a time, there was a little boy. He was six years old and lived in Minnesota. He may or may not have been my nephew. Let’s call him…Schmaiden.


One day, for reasons no one knows, Schmaiden decided he was a Green Bay Packers fan. All he would say is, “Because they win more.” No one in his family was a Packers fan. They were all Minnesota Vikings fans. They didn’t even know any Packers fans in Minnesota. But that was alright. They loved him just the same.

One day, something big happened. The Packers came to play the Vikings in Minnesota. Schmaiden’s uncle got tickets for him, his dad, and his cousin to go to the game. How exciting!

He tried and tried, but no matter what he did, Schmaiden’s dad couldn’t get Schmaiden to wear a Vikings jersey to the game. In fact, Schmaiden wanted to wear a cheesehead. But as it turned out, cheeseheads were very hard to find in Minnesota. Schmaiden’s dad was kind of relieved.

So, off they went to the game. Schmaiden’s dad, uncle and cousin all in Vikings jerseys…Schmaiden in his white shirt and Packers pajama bottoms. But it was all good…

Until, they got to the game. You see, things didn’t quite go as expected for the Packers. The Vikings quarterback, who was newly married to a beautiful TV reporter, seemed to have grown into a man overnight. He didn’t look like a second year rookie without much first year experience. The Vikings were leading! In fact, they dominated the first half of the game.


Schmaiden’s dad (who may or may not be a lawyer) decided to take advantage of the opportunity. With the aid of a hot dog and a little ginger ale, he was able to bribe Schmaiden into wearing a Vikings jersey for the second half.

Image 2

Oh, what fun it was to be a Vikings fan and cheer for the winning team!

Image 3The Vikings beat the Packers and everyone went home happy. Everyone who was a Vikings fan, that is.


But our story doesn’t end here. Because with that win, the Vikings made the playoffs…and now they go to Green Bay to play the Packers again! Schmaiden’s family hopes he stays a Vikings fan forever. But when asked who he’ll cheer for this weekend…he says, “I don’t know yet.”

For now, let’s call him confused.


My money is on the team that’s leading at the half.

To be continued…



Halloween special: The scariest players in the NFL

On this Halloween, I profile the scariest players in the NFL.  If you’re like me, you have nightmares about these players staring you down…not to mention your quarterback.

Jared Allen, Defensive End for the Minnesota Vikings

Yes, Jared Allen may be lovable…in a big, goofy dog kind of way.  But he’s also intimidating…in a growling Doberman kind of way.  You never really trust him, you never take your eyes off him, you never turn your back on him, and you never…ever piss him off.  Just ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Josh Freeman.

During last week’s Thursday Night Football game between the Vikings and the Buccaneers, Bucs Tackle Donald Penn kept blocking Allen after the play was over.  The two got physical and Penn knocked Allen’s helmet off, giving him a bloody nose.  Once the two were separated and back on the field for the next play, no one had to tell you what was going to happen next.

The whistle blew, the ball was snapped…and before he could say, “Trick or Treat,” Josh Freeman was on the ground with a bloodied Allen starting him in the face.  Just like a scene from a horror movie.

Fan’s best friend…but only if he’s on your team.

Troy Polamalu, Safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Don’t let the Head & Shoulders commercials fool you.  Troy Polamalu may be sitting at a piano, long hair flowing…but as elegant as he looks, he’s a fierce fighter on the field.  Over ten seasons in the NFL, Polamalu has racked up 614 tackles, 9 quarterback sacks, and 29 interceptions.  He also has two Super Bowl rings and seven Pro Bowl appearances to show for it.  Superhuman strength and speed?  Maybe he does moonlight as a vampire.

The hair is fair game on the field.  If you think it holds him back, though…think again.  But Head & Shoulders did insure Polamalu’s locks through Lloyds of London (for one million dollars), just in case.

If any player has the nerve to mess with Polamalu’s mop…it will grow right back anyway.  At least, it would in Twilight.

Ray Lewis, Linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens

Ray Lewis is not only the best linebacker on the Ravens defense, he is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL…and quite possibly the best to play that position.  Ever.

The Ravens are missing Lewis, who was ruled out for the season with a torn triceps muscle in week six.  And they may be missing him for much longer.  Reports say the 17-year NFL veteran who is not so quiet along the sideline, is quietly contemplating retirement.

In his storied career, Lewis has racked up more records than any trophy case could hold, including a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, a record 13 Pro Bowl appearances, more than 2,000 tackles, 41 sacks, and 31 interceptions.

Coupled with his keen sense of leadership and that intense look, this is not a guy you want anywhere near your quarterback.  Not even on the sideline.

And then, there was that murder investigation…but I won’t go into that.

If Ray Lewis retires from football, he will be remembered only for his game killing plays, his violent attacks on quarterbacks, and his ability to stop runners dead in their tracks.

Aside from all that, he’s also one of the most loved and respected players of all time and is known for having a huge heart.  In 2010, Lewis had a street named after him in honor of his work in the Baltimore community.

I don’t care.  I still don’t want to run into him in a dark alley.  Even if it is Ray Lewis Way.  But don’t tell him I said that.  Ok?

Happy Halloween!


Coffee Cup Quarterback | Week 7: A new season, a new scandal. Welcome to…Stickygate

San Diego Chargers

A new year, a new “gate” in the National Football League.  First, we had the New England Patriots and Spygate, then we had the New Orleans Saints and Bountygate, the fallout from which is still settling.

And now, it’s the San Diego Chargers who find themselves in a sticky situation.  Literally.  Jay Glazer from Fox Sports reported Sunday that an official spotted a Chargers equipment manager hiding something in a towel he was giving to players during the Monday night game against the Broncos.  The employee refused to turn over the towel, but when officials asked him to empty his pockets, they confiscated a sticky substance.

And just like that, a scandal is born.  Welcome, my friends to…Stickygate.

Stickum has been banned by the NFL for years, but was once used liberally to help players hold on to the football.  The NFL is investigating and the Chargers are on bye week (and likely doing laundry).  Coach Norv Turner says no one on his team used Stickum during the Chargers’ 35-24 loss to the Denver Broncos on October 15th.  With six turnovers, you wouldn’t think anyone would accuse the Chargers of having sticky fingers.

Speaking of gates…Saints Assistant Coach Joe Vitt has returned to the team following his Bountygate suspension.  He will be on the field at Mile High Stadium this week when the Saints play the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.

So that’s what the Baltimore Ravens look like without Pro Bowl Linebacker and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.  The Ravens defense allowed the Houston Texans to score more than 40 points on Sunday, something they haven’t done since 2007.  The team lost both Lewis and Cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season last week.  And no defense is pretty hard to overcome with no offense.  Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco recorded the lowest rating for any quarterback since 2008.  The Ravens lost to the Texans 43-13.

Johns Skelton was back at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals this week.  His welcome back gift?  He was sacked seven times by the Minnesota Vikings (and is probably still having nightmares about Brian Robison and Jared Allen).  Kevin Kolb was hurt after being sacked more than 20 times in three games.  The two are taking turns taking sacks and trading injuries.  The Cardinals have allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked 35 times this year, the most in the NFL.  Once again, I hope the Cardinals invest in some protection…or have a binder full of backup quarterbacks.  Yes, people…that one was just too easy.

The best news in the NFL for week seven…Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano has been released from the hospital and was able to watch his team beat the Cleveland Browns at home…from home.  Pagano has been hospitalized and undergoing treatment for leukemia since the end of September.

And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that unless the quality of the game improves, this could be the last year for the NFL Pro Bowl.