Embattled NFL superstar Adrian Peterson pleaded no contest on Tuesday to reckless assault charges in order to avoid jail time for child abuse.
Peterson made national headlines earlier in September, when it was revealed that he had allegedly hit his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. The fallout from his actions led to the Pro Bowl running back being placed on the inactive list by his team, the Minnesota Vikings. Meanwhile, the allegations against Peterson brought renewed scrutiny on the NFL, which was already reeling from their handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case.
By pleading no contest to a lesser charge, Peterson has had a finding over his guilt deferred for two years. The multi-millionaire football player will now face a $4,000 fine and 80 hours of community service.
With this chapter in his case coming to a close, it remains to be seen whether Peterson will be eligible to rejoin the Vikings. The team’s NFL season is currently underway.
“We will review the court documents,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told NBC Sports via email. “We cannot speculate on a timetable for a decision.” If the league doesn’t take a new stance on Peterson, it will effectively extend his initial suspension from the sport.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway argued in an interview with the Star-Tribune that Peterson would be welcomed back warmly by his teammates.
“What he needs to do is just get his stuff figured out and taken care of. That’s really it,” said Greenway, who added, “As far as what’s happened, it’s his business. He’s got to handle it. And we’re here to do our jobs, so that’s what we’re focused on.”
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph also expressed support for Peterson. “We all know the kind of person he is and we’ve stood behind him this whole time,” he said. “You’d be crazy not to welcome him back into that locker room. I think it would be a big pick-up for this locker room being that we have so many young guys. Any time you can have a veteran back in that locker room, the leader that he is in the locker room, out on the practice field would be huge for us.”
For his part, Peterson never denied striking his child, but consistently argued that he was disciplining his son in the manner in which he was raised. His image has taken a major hit in the wake of the scandal, with reports questioning incidents involving his other children and even the distribution of funds donated to charities in his name.
“I truly regret this incident,” Peterson said outside the courthouse in Conroe, Texas. “I stand here and I take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than anyone of you could manage, and I look forward to continuing my relationship with my child.”
He added: “I’m just glad this over and I can put this behind me, and me and my family can move forward.”
The boy’s mother released a statement saying the she supports the plea agreement through her attorney Kelly C. Dohm: “She has valued her friendship with Mr. Peterson over the last seven years. She and Mr. Peterson have shared a parental relationship for four years with a fun, beautiful little boy. My client knows that Mr. Peterson loves their son very much and has confidence that he will remain an involved parent with their son throughout his life.”
Meanwhile, the NFL is in the midst of reforming and revising their current policies on sexual assault and domestic violence. Former FBI director Robert Mueller is also conducting an ongoing investigation into the league’s handling of the Rice affair.