On Wednesday, Mike Zimmer stuck to the Vikings' tough love stance in regards to their disgruntled star running back Adrian Peterson.
PHOENIX -- The NFL’s annual meeting closed here on Wednesday morning with Adrian Peterson remaining a Minnesota Viking. And here’s the conclusion we can draw from that:
It’s tough to force a trade to the Cards when you’re not playing much of a winning hand.
Though Peterson’s high-profile agent, Ben Dogra, was in town this week telling anyone who would listen that it’s no longer in his client’s best interests to stay in Minnesota, it was the Vikings who reminded us that they have a few interests of their own to look out for in this never-ending six-month-plus saga. As is well within their right.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has absolutely the correct approach. At Wednesday morning’s NFC coaches/media breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, it was Zimmer who adopted Peterson’s trademark All Day mindset, sticking to the team’s tough love stance in regards to the demands of its disgruntled star running back.
There will be no trade, to Arizona or anyone else, said Zimmer. There will be no capitulation. If Peterson wants to play in 2015, he’ll be wearing purple when he does it. And good for the Vikings for making that crystal clear and standing firm. Why should Minnesota be forced to deal away its best player and most valuable asset because he got his feelings hurt in the aftermath of a child abuse case that was completely a mess of his own making?
"I’m not going to speculate on what he wants or doesn’t want, but Adrian’s under contract for three more years with us," Zimmer said. "That’s why you sign those contracts, that’s why you get these big bonuses, you know? We’re planning on him being here."
Later, with emphasis, he added: "We have no plans to trade Adrian."
I lost track of exactly how many times Zimmer referenced Peterson being "under contract," but it easily reached double digits. Remaining steadfast without ever sounding exasperated or belligerent, Zimmer underlined the obvious: Minnesota has all the leverage in this stand-off, and the Vikings are perfectly willing to call Peterson’s bluff. Who knows how long this staring contest might continue, but Zimmer and the team don’t seem ready to blink.
After the Vikings paid him a ton not to play for most of last year and stand ready and willing to pay him a boatload ($12.75 million) to play this year, the next move belongs to Peterson. He can take the money and run, out of Minnesota’s backfield only, but the Vikings aren’t going to see the franchise penalized twice for actions that Peterson bears the blame for.
"We not only felt bad for what happened to Adrian and Adrian’s son, but also to what happened to us as a result," Zimmer said of the 2014 Vikings, the first club he led after years of waiting for his shot as an NFL head coach. "There were some things that happened to us that we had to overcome throughout the course of the year as well. We all understand what Adrian’s done for the Vikings organization and for the state, and we also understand what we’ve done for him as well. I’ll stop there."
Enough said. The Vikings’ relationship with Peterson is a two-way street, Zimmer was pointing out, and it’s prudent for both parties to recognize that reality. The time for talking is probably over, given both sides have communicated plenty in recent weeks. There’s no misunderstanding. Just a lack of agreement on the way forward.
"I think we’ve all talked pretty much," Zimmer said. "I think we’re pretty firm in where we are and what we believe and where we’re at. He’s under contract, and yeah, we expect him to honor it."
That stance, Zimmer said, does not represent a change in philosophy, even though two recent Pro Football Talk reports indicated Zimmer had said on air that if Peterson definitely wanted out of Minnesota, the team would accommodate him. Those reports perhaps led Dogra to conclude that Peterson could agitate his way off the Vikings roster.
"I’m glad you asked that," said Zimmer, when the topic was broached. "It [PFT] kept saying I would accommodate him. I never said I would accommodate him. All I said was I want him to want to be there, like I want all my players to be there. I’ve been in situations before that I thought were not the best situation, but I’ve been under contract, so I did what I was supposed to do and it turned out pretty good.
[daily_cut.nfl]"We all have contracts. I mean, I can’t say, 'Okay, I’m going to go to this team or something.' I never once said I would accommodate him. Those words never came out of my mouth."
It’s impossible to miss that message from Zimmer. Peterson might want out, believing that some in the Minnesota organization were not supportive enough last September when he was charged with child abuse of his four-year-old son, but what we want and what we get in life is not always the same. Peterson can play for the Vikings or play for no one in 2015, and that’s why Zimmer doesn’t see the current situation as player and team going through some choreographed routine.
"He’s under contract and we expect him to be there," he said. "I mean, we’re not dancing. I’m not a very good dancer."
Zimmer has been open in trying to appeal to Peterson’s sense of legacy and history with the Vikings organization. Some day, Zimmer said, Canton will come calling, and even though Peterson might not appreciate it now, staying with Minnesota his entire career will be meaningful.
"I think when he goes into the Hall of Fame, he’s going to want to go in with the jersey everyone remembers him wearing, and so that would be as a Viking," Zimmer said, declining to reveal if he made that case directly to Peterson. "But I wanted to make sure I got that out there. It is important. Without saying what we talked about, [it] probably [was communicated].
"I think back and I had Deion Sanders and Charles Haley ... and some other guys that I’ve coached over time, and they come back and really a lot of them wish they never would have left [their original teams]. That might be a good question to ask Emmitt Smith, if he wished he wouldn’t have gone to Arizona those last two years."
I have little doubt that if the melodrama involving Peterson's issues with the Vikings turned on his rapport with Zimmer, the veteran running back could easily re-cross the bridge that he feels has been burned. But of course, the situation includes other complicating factors, involving bad feelings toward the team from Peterson family members, and his distrust of at least one official in the team’s front office. Ultimately, if the club’s stance stays as firm as it currently is, can Peterson and Zimmer’s relationship carry the day and help resolve the stand-off?
"I think the relationship is still there, yeah," Zimmer said. "I think he feels that way.... I’m trying not to say what he’s told me, but I think both of us, we understand that we have a good relationship—him and myself—and football-wise, the team, our football organization, I think he feels good about it, yeah."
For now, with Peterson still idling on the commissioner’s exempt list until at least April 15 after his league suspension was overturned on appeal, there’s no end in sight to this contentious story. Peterson remains a Viking today and appears to be going nowhere. Both sides have dug in and want their way, but it’s Minnesota that still owns the upper hand.
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