Adrian Peterson is coming back to the Minnesota Vikings two days after he was charged with child abuse for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son, and the star running back said Monday he is not a child abuser and wants "everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child."
Peterson, considered one of the best running backs in the NFL, was benched for Sunday's 30-7 home loss to the New England Patriots. He had not commented publicly since news broke on Friday that he had lashed the boy with the switch earlier this summer, causing an unspecified injuries.
"I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser," Peterson said in a nearly 500-word statement issued through his agency and posted to his Twitter feed. "I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury.
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"No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that's what I tried to do that day."
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said they had decided to bring back Peterson for practices and Sunday's game at New Orleans "after significant thought, discussion and consideration." The Wilfs said they want to let the legal process play out before making any more definitive decisions on Peterson's future with the only NFL team he has ever played for.
"To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child," the Wilfs said. "At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing."
Peterson faces an initial court appearance in Conroe, Texas, on Wednesday on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, which carries penalties of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said he will try to delay the arraignment until next week after Hardin returns from a vacation out of the country.
Corporal punishment is legal in Texas and non-deadly force against a child by a parent or guardian is permissible. But the punishment is abusive if it causes injury. A blow that leaves a bruise, welt or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive. The guidelines also say use of an instrument "is cause for concern."
Hardin said Peterson used a switch because that was the way he was brought up by his parents in Palestine, Texas, and the NFL star agreed.
"I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen," Peterson said. "I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate."
The Vikings decided not to play Peterson against the Patriots, moving swiftly after a week in which the NFL came under heavy scrutiny for its handling of a domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The Vikings clearly see Peterson's case as different from the 2011 case involving former cornerback Chris Cook, who was accused of choking his girlfriend. Cook was initially suspended by the team before being reinstated with pay. But the Vikings barred him from all team activities, including games, while the legal process unfolded.
Cook wound up missing 10 games and was eventually acquitted. He never faced discipline from the NFL and played two more seasons with the Vikings before signing with the 49ers.
The NFL is looking into Peterson's case, and if convicted he could face a minimum six-game suspension under the league's new tougher domestic abuse policy that was implemented after Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he botched Rice's initial punishment.
The Vikings' decision to reinstate Peterson comes on the same day the NFL announced that three experts in domestic violence will serve as senior advisers to the league. Goodell sent a memo to teams Monday announcing that Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will "help lead and shape the NFL's policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault."
"I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct," Peterson said. "Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person."