Definition of "Suspension" To Control Adrian Peterson's Fate

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Adrian Peterson accepted a plea agreement and pled no contest to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault. To be clear, “no contest” means a defendant is not contesting the State’s evidence and is leaving it up to the judge to determine if there is sufficient evidence to convict the defendant. And in Peterson’s case, there’s a small avalanche of evidence to convict him.

According to sources, Peterson’s plea agreement won’t make any mention of domestic violence or any assault against his child, which is perplexing because the only listed victim was his child. It seems a bit of a stretch for Peterson to be found guilty of reckless assault without any mention of the victim.

Perhaps Peterson and his lawyer are attempting to circumvent Goodell’s August 28 Executive Order. You remember...that was the letter he sent to each team outlining the discipline for domestic violence, assault, battery and sexual assault.

According to Goodell’s Executive Order, Peterson would be subject to a six-game suspension, or longer. I say, “or longer” because Goodell added this little nugget to his Executive Order: “Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.”

We have a couple of the aggravating factors present: repeated striking and committing the act in the presence of a child.

The answer to when Peterson will play again largely depends on the definition of “suspension.”

Up until this point, Peterson has not been suspended in the traditional sense—he was placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List and paid his full salary.  So while Peterson hasn’t been able to practice or play, he has not been suspended by Goodell for his actions relating to beating his son.

Adrian Peterson_Stadium

The Vikings have seven more regular season games. If Goodell ignores the “aggravating factors” clause of his Executive Order, Peterson will suit up against the Bears—on December 28, not November 16. Meaning Goodell would suspend Peterson for the next six games.

If Goodell finds that the repeated striking of the four-year-old child and the fact that the conduct took place in the presence of a child “merit a more severe penalty,” Peterson may not play until the post-season, assuming the Vikings make the playoffs.

Alternatively, Goodell could find that Peterson being sidelined for eight games satisfies the discipline terms of his Executive Order, which would have Peterson booking tickets to Chicago next week.

If Goodell allows Peterson back next week and finds that, under the new Personal Conduct Policy/Executive Order, Peterson served a sufficient “suspension,” it will create chaos in locker rooms across the NFL.  

Any player who would normally be suspended—you know, without pay—would argue that they need to be placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List just as Peterson was.

While many believe Peterson’s eight-game absence was sufficient punishment for his crime, Goodell can’t ignore the numerous other moving parts to this situation. If he does, the Domestic Violence Tornado is surely to blow back through the NFL with a fury again.

But what also can’t be ignored, and is the strongest argument Peterson has to be immediately reinstated, is the definition of “Accrued Season” within the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Article 8, Section 1(a) explains that a player can only receive credit for an accrued season if he was on “full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games.”

It's true Peterson is receiving his full pay while on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, but subsection (i) of Article 8 excludes any “games for which the player was on the Exempt Commissioner Permission List.”

If you’re arguing for Peterson to come back immediately, that’s your best argument—yes, he’s been getting paid, but he hasn’t received credit towards an accrued season. Therefore, he’s technically been suspended eight games—two more than the six games warranted under Goodell’s Executive Order.

Once Peterson is removed from the safe haven of the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, Goodell is likely to impose a six- or eight-game suspension. Goodell will then find that the suspension has already been served and Peterson will book his flight to Chicago.

And the only way the Vikings can affect any of this is to cut Peterson because, under Article 46, Section 4 of the CBA, any blows delivered by Goodell supersede those of the Vikings—the team and Goodell cannot punish Peterson for the same conduct. 

Goodell won't punish you for following me on Twitter.

Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins Bio

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).