Vikings' Peterson straddling HOF fence
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- If Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is found guilty of child abuse, will it affect his chances of being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? The Pioneer Press posed that question...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - If Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is found guilty of child abuse, will it affect his chances of being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
The Pioneer Press posed that question to five of the 46 hall of fame board of selectors about Peterson, who is on the NFL’s exempt list after being indicted Sept. 12 in Texas on a felony charge of child abuse. Two allowed their names to be used, and three spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Each selector noted hall of fame bylaws call for only a player’s on-field performance to be considered, although two said a conviction for child abuse would be impossible to not consider. Several brought up the issue of the charge possibly hampering Peterson’s hall chances if it were to end his career.
“Selectors are supposed to consider only a player’s playing career, not what he did off the field,” said Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the selector representing the Arizona Cardinals. “I can’t speak for others, but I will adhere to that bylaw. But, if this ends his career, it will impact his chances, no question. With seven seasons, I think he would be on the borderline for many voters.”
Peterson began his eighth year by appearing in the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at St. Louis. But he hasn’t suited up since and might not play again this season.
“While the rule in the bylaws is you’re only supposed to consider what happens on the field, everybody in that room is a human being, and many have children and all of those things,” said a selector representing an AFC team. “I think it will enter people’s minds (if Peterson were to be convicted). How much will depend on each voter. … It would be hard for me to separate.”
Peterson has admitted he disciplined his 4-year-old son in May but said he didn’t mean any harm. Photos taken about a week after the incident showing cuts and welts on the boy have shocked many.
“If the pictures are indeed representative of what happened, I think (selectors) will struggle with that,” said the AFC selector.
An NFC selector said if Peterson were to be convicted of child abuse and his candidacy was even with a player with a clean record, the selector could see the other player getting the nod.
After Peterson plays his last NFL game, he would have a five-year waiting period to be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. If he were to become one of the 15 finalists for enshrinement in any year, he would need 80 percent of the vote to make it.
Peterson, 29, has put himself in position to be inducted by rushing for 10,190 career yards, including 2,097 during his MVP season of 2012. He has been named all-pro three times and to six Pro Bowls.
The AFC and NFC selectors both wondered if all the recent negative off-field events in the NFL could result in there eventually being a discussion whether the hall of fame should continue to fully adhere to the policy of considering only what happens on the field.
“When we talk about the (NFL) and protecting the shield - you hear (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell say that all along - are we supposed to consider that to some degree as part of players’ professionalism as a pro athlete representing the organization?” said the NFC selector. “I do think it’s something we’re going to have to talk about with what’s going on right now, with all these cases of high-profile players being affected.”
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice recently was released by the Baltimore Ravens, and his two-game suspension changed to an indefinite one after a video surfaced of Rice punching his then-fiancée in an elevator. Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy also is on the NFL’s exempt list after having been convicted of domestic violence, although his case is being appealed and he will have a jury trial.
Joe Reedy of Fox Sports Ohio, a selector representing the Cincinnati Bengals, said he would adhere to bylaws and consider only what happened on the field with Peterson. Reedy said that’s the approach he’s taking with running back Jamal Lewis, who once did prison time on a drug charge and is eligible for the first time for the class that will be announced in January.
However, Reedy did acknowledge a child-abuse situation could be “something new” for selectors to face. He said there have been instances in which it’s possible off-field activities could have blurred the lines for some.
Reedy pointed to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, who had run-ins with the law, not being inducted until his third year of eligibility in 2007. He noted former San Francisco owner Ed DeBartolo Jr., who was involved in a corruption case involving former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards and was barred from the NFL for a year, hasn’t gotten in despite the 49ers winning five Super Bowls during his tenure.
“I think there are more moral plays here and there, but I think the hall does a very good job of when things start into talking about the off-the-field stuff, they try in the meetings to get it very quickly back to the on-the-field accomplishments,” Reedy said.
The NFC selector and an at-large representative pointed to Charles Haley falling short five times as a hall finalist despite being on a record five Super Bowl-winning teams and making five Pro Bowls. Haley had run-ins with media, coaches and players during his career.
Reedy believes Peterson has done enough already to make the hall of fame. He did say, though, some might compare a possible abbreviated Peterson career to that of Terrell Davis, who played seven years, also had a 2,000-yard rushing season and won two Super Bowls with Denver.
“I would say right now, yes,” Peterson is a hall of famer, Reedy said. “I could see people saying, ‘How come Adrian Peterson is in but Terrell Davis is not at the moment?’ But I also think that what AP meant to the (Vikings) franchise compared to Terrell Davis, I think AP gets the nod.”
Somers also believes Peterson’s accomplishments are sufficient now for hall induction.
“In my opinion, yes,” Somers said. “He (has been) the best running back in the NFL, by a substantial margin, during his time. A seven-year career will make any voter think twice, but given the shelf life of running backs in this age, I think Peterson has done enough.”
The at-large representative also believes Peterson already has secured a hall pass, saying “his numbers are great.” However, both the AFC and NFC selectors aren’t so sure Peterson would get the nod if he is found guilty of child abuse and doesn’t play again in the NFL.
“He’s been very good, but I don’t think everybody would say at running back he’s a slam dunk,” said the AFC selector. “He doesn’t have much postseason (success), and that’s always a big thing in that room, although you can’t always blame a player for that if he’s with an organization that doesn’t make the postseason. And there are an awful lot of 10,000-yard backs out there that won’t get in.”
Twenty-nine players in NFL history have rushed for 10,000 yards or more, with Peterson ranking 27th. Of the 20 backs who have reached 10,000 and are eligible, 13 are in the hall.
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