Daily mailbag: Peterson and his helmet

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
4:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I've gotten a number of questions this week asking why Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson wasn't penalized for taking his helmet off on the field during Sunday's 28-27 victory over Green Bay.

 
 AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid
 Adrian Peterson removed his helmet while on the playing field four times last Sunday.

I'm aware of at least four times when television cameras caught a helmetless Peterson:

  • When punt returner Charles Gordon dislocated his left ankle in the second quarter.
  • After Vikings coach Brad Childress initially decided to punt on fourth-and-1 from the 41-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
  • After fumbling on the ensuing fourth-down play.
  • After scoring the game-winning touchdown.

(If you know of any others, hit the mailbag.)

I sought clarification from a league spokesman, who forwarded me the wording of the applicable NFL rule. As it turns out, there are some exceptions -- but I don't think they all apply here.

Here is the rule:

A player may not remove his helmet during a game while on the playing field unless: (1) a timeout has been called for reasons of injury, television break, charged team timeout, or between periods, or (2) the player is in the bench area. Violation of this rule will be penalized as unsportsmanlike conduct.

You can make an argument that Peterson was in the bench area after scoring the touchdown, and there was definitely an injury/television timeout under way when Gordon was being attended to. But there was no immediate timeout prior to the near-punt, and a change of possession after fourth down doesn't qualify as a timeout.

I supposed it's possible that officials exercised discretion and judged Peterson not to have acted in an unsportsmanlike manner when he removed his helmet. Or, they just didn't notice that he took it off. Based on my understanding of this rule, Peterson should have been penalized on those occasions based on a strict reading of the rules.

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