Column: Peterson changes course at just the right time

Adrian Peterson made his point, only to find out no one was in any mood to listen.

He wasn't going to win his fight to get more money guaranteed in his contract, not when the Minnesota Vikings held all the cards. He wasn't going to rally fans to his side, not when there was little sympathy for a player who missed most of the previous season dealing with felony child abuse charges.

Peterson figured that out quickly enough, not long after a series of tweets complaining about his plight fell on deaf ears. One week he was skipping so-called optional workouts with his teammates, and then he was in camp pledging to help carry them to a great season.

''It definitely feels good to be back in the building,'' Peterson said Tuesday. ''The past year has been emotional for both parties involved. I've learned a lot from my mistake and I'm moving forward.''

The mistake, of course, was beating his then 4-year-old son with a switch, causing visible injuries that led to charges he would plea bargain down to a misdemeanor. He apologized to his son and doesn't do it any more, Peterson told reporters, learning instead to use things like time out and taking toys away to discipline his children.

The other mistake was complaining about his contract and hinting he should be on another team, something almost as egregious in eyes of some die-hard Vikings fans. He explained that one away, too, saying his life was in such turmoil with the child abuse charges and his suspension from the NFL that he was confused about his future.

''I didn't know what I wanted to do,'' Peterson said after working out with teammates for the first time in more than a year.

What he will be doing this upcoming season is lining up in the backfield behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, giving a big boost to a Vikings team already on the rebound. He'll make $12.75 million, adding to the $60 million or so he has already pocketed for being the best running back in the game.

Indeed, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer could barely contain himself.

''There's really not a prettier sight then when he's got the ball in his hand,'' Zimmer said.

It's all good, at least for right now. There is still unfinished business, mainly Peterson's feelings that some of the $46 million he is owed in the final years of his contract should be guaranteed.

That was mostly brushed aside in his return, where the questions were mostly about his child abuse charges and his feelings for the only pro team he has ever played for. Peterson wasn't asked about guaranteed contracts and the fact that he, like any NFL player, can be tossed aside like yesterday's trash for whatever reason any team wants.

Besides, Peterson already gave his views on that. In tweets last week he complained about the upper hand teams hold with players when it comes to contract guarantees.

''This is not against the Vikings,'' he said in one tweet. ''I am just frustrated that our union did not get guaranteed contracts for its players.''

That's probably one thing the union won't get, at least in Peterson's career. NFL owners would rather pay for their own stadiums than give guaranteed contracts to players, and the billion-dollar new stadium going up in downtown Minneapolis financed largely by taxpayers is a good reminder of how the league works.

Peterson and other NFL stars could have tried to do something about that in the 2011 negotiations, but didn't. Aside from a crack about players being treated like modern day slaves, Peterson was almost totally silent during those talks, only to sign a new contract that included $36 million in guaranteed money just weeks after the deal was done.

Peterson was able to get his money front-loaded, as are most top players. But he's now 30, an age where running backs tend to decline in a league that doesn't value the position anymore. There's a good chance he will never see the money in the final two years of his contract, certainly not in the numbers originally negotiated.

Peterson did nothing wrong in suggesting that money should be guaranteed. But his timing was terribly wrong, when fans were still trying to reconcile the child abuse charges to their image of him as a nice guy as well as a great player.

Once he understood that, Peterson changed course as quickly as he might on one of his runs. Then, instead of tweeting, he stood before reporters in Minnesota and answered questions as candidly as he could.

This time Vikings fans were listening. And they had to like what they heard.

----

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.