In December, the NFL Players Association filed a 75-page lawsuit on Peterson's behalf against the NFL in U.S. District Court in an attempt to get the suspension overturned. Judge David S. Doty heard arguments in the case on Feb. 6 before making his ruling, which the NFL is appealing.
"I was pleased to learn about Judge Doty’s decision. It is a positive step in protecting players' rights and preserving due process for all players. It also brings me one step closer to getting back on the football field and playing the sport I love. As I prepare for my return to football, I am still focused on my family and continue to work to become a better father every day. I want to express my gratitude for all of the support I have received from the fans, NFLPA, Jeffrey Kessler, and my agents Ben Dogra, Tracy Lartigue and Mark Heligman from Relativity Sports."
The NFL later announced that it will appeal the decision and have it reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a statement, the league said it believes Doty's ruling "is incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal precedent governing the district court’s role in reviewing arbitration decisions."
Peterson was suspended indefinitely in November after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault for allegedly hitting his four-year-old son with a switch. The plea came after Peterson was indicted in Texas on charges of child abuse in September, after which he was placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List. He played only one game in 2014.
The running back has not yet been reinstated. Judge Doty returned the case to the NFL arbiter who originally made the ruling. Since the NFL is appealing, Peterson will return to the Commissioner's Exempt List for the time being.
Despite the judge's ruling, Peterson's future with the Vikings remains unclear. Though he is under contract for next season, the three-time first-team All-Pro running back recently told ESPN he is "still uneasy" about playing in Minnesota in 2015. Peterson's agent reportedly had a dispute with Vikings executive Rob Brzezinski at the NFL combine.
Peterson's father, Nelson Peterson, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press after Doty's ruling that there's "nothing etched in stone" that Peterson won't return to the Vikings, but "things have to work out." He also said that Peterson missing nearly all of the 2014 season was "totally unjustified."
- Molly Geary and Dan Gartland