Inside Slant: Adrian Peterson 'made a mistake,' but ...

Peterson ready to move forward

Adrian Peterson discusses his future after returning to the Minnesota Vikings' facility on Tuesday to participate in organized team activities.

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Somehow, we lost our way with this Adrian Peterson story. We obsessed over the NFL's personal conduct policy and spent months debating whether Peterson would be traded when, all along, the real issue was the 4-year-old son he whipped violently enough to raise gashes all over his body.

Peterson rejoined the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, as anyone who had paid attention knew he would. What we didn't know was whether Peterson truly had come to terms with the abusive act. Did he accept that it was inherently wrong? Or did he simply wish it had never happened, given the resulting furor? His public comments over the winter, sprinkled with conspiracy theories and self-defense, left the answers far from clear.

The distinction cuts to the heart of whether Peterson regains his reputation as a well-meaning role model and superstar. I'm not sure that we got an entirely direct response Tuesday, but Peterson did use the word "mistake" four times and provided details on both his therapy and new approach to child discipline.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I'm not taking it lightly at all. It's something I regret. My son knows that. People know that, and the people that truly know me and know my character and know what type of person I am when I'm with my kids and around my kids, they know that as well. Really, to me, that's the only thing that matters."

Therapy, Peterson said, confirmed that "I've been doing a pretty good job" as a parent. He noted the value of "timeouts" and withholding snacks from his children as options over corporal punishment. He relayed that his son wanted to leave a Minnesota therapy session and return with him to Houston.

On the other hand, Peterson made clear that he considered public reaction in some corners to be overblown.

"I understand that that's the world we live in," he said. "We have so many people in this world that have their own opinion or view things and make their own assumptions. 'It had to happen this way' or 'It had to happen that way.' A lot of people like to run with negative things.

"But I'm comfortable with knowing my intentions. And I'm comfortable with knowing that my child loves me and wants to be around me."

Tuesday's news conference revealed that Peterson is a man forever changed by the events of the past year. He appears conflicted as well. In the end, he has owned his actions to the fullest extent he can muster. So it goes.