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NFLPA to support Adrian Peterson

If Adrian Peterson receives a plea deal and his felony child abuse charge is bargained down to a misdemeanor, the expectation of the NFL Players Association will be that the Minnesota Vikings star should be punished as would any other player determined to be guilty of a misdemeanor, league sources told ESPN.

Peterson has missed eight games but been paid his full salary of nearly $5.3 million in his absence. The union will likely argue that the running back should be reinstated and perhaps forced to pay a substantial fine -- surrendering part of the income he's been receiving.

Peterson has been on the commissioner's exempt list, and only commissioner Roger Goodell can reinstate him, so he could be required to meet with Goodell.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who is facing a trial for a domestic violence charge, also was placed on the exempt list in September.

Both players agreed as part of a deal that they would be ineligible to play until their cases are adjudicated, but that they would receive full compensation until that time.

Once Goodell reinstates Peterson, presuming the commissioner eventually does so, the Vikings would either have to allow the running back to return to the team or be required to release him.

The Vikings' position on all of this remains a mystery. They have been silent since Peterson was put on the exempt list, so there is uncertainty as to whether the Vikings are willing to reinsert Peterson into their lineup.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Peterson on Monday as the team began its bye week, and he made it clear he judges Peterson based on his own personal interactions and considers him to be "top-notch, first-class."