MINNEAPOLIS -- In the echo chamber of the stunning and tragic news about Adrian Peterson's 2-year-old son, there will be speculation and opinions. That's how we do things in 2013; everyone with a Twitter account can voice their opinions in a matter of seconds, and in this case, can tell Peterson whether they think he should play against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
That decision, coach Leslie Frazier said Friday afternoon, will be left up to Peterson and Peterson alone. That means it's not up to you. It's not up to me. It's not up to Peterson's coaches, teammates or anyone else with a stake in the Minnesota Vikings except Peterson himself.
A team source said Friday evening that Peterson is still expected to play and isn't planning to return to Sioux Falls, S.D., this weekend. But, the source said, that could change tomorrow depending on how Peterson feels. And Friday afternoon, in a short interview in the Vikings' locker room, Peterson said he planned to play, while offering insight into what would lead him to that decision.
"You know, football is something I will always fall back on," he said. "It gets me through tough times. Just being around the guys in here, that's what I need in my life, guys supporting me and just being able to go out and play this game I love. Things that I go through, I've said a thousand times, it helps me play this game to a different level. I'm able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that's what I plan on doing."
Here's something you need to know about Peterson -- and it's something that gets lost behind the man's relentless positivity and boyish enthusiasm: He is deeply acquainted with sorrow.
He experienced it at age 7, when his older brother Brian was killed by a drunk driver and passed away in Peterson's arms. He dealt with it through high school and college, when his father spent time in prison for dealing drugs while Adrian became a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Oklahoma. And he tasted it again right before the NFL scouting combine in 2007, when his half-brother Chris Paris was shot the night before Peterson was scheduled to work out for all 32 teams. So while the idea of the playing field as a hiding place might sound like a tired old saw from many athletes, it's a philosophy Peterson has tested and found true throughout his life.
There have been, and will continue to be, many opinions between now and Sunday about what Peterson should do, and all of those say more about the person writing, blogging, tweeting or saying them than they do about Peterson. He'll either play or sit out, and in the end, it will be meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
But if there's one thing to remember here, it's that Peterson has been here all too often. If he wants to play a football game Sunday, if he thinks that will help him cope with the senseless events of the past few days, he's got experience to inform that decision. Whether you or I think he's right or wrong doesn't really matter.