MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Minnesota Vikings have tried to pave the way for Adrian Peterson's return to the team through numerous comments from top officials in the last week, the running back remains undecided about his future with the team.
Peterson told ESPN on Thursday night he is "still uneasy" about the prospect of returning to the Vikings in 2015, saying the organization working with the NFL to put him on the commissioner's exempt list last September made him question how much support he had from the team for whom he has played his entire career. The 2012 NFL MVP called that decision an "ambush," adding, "There were people (in the organization) that I trusted, who knew exactly what was said, that weren't heard from" in the decision-making process.
"They weren't able to do anything about it," Peterson said.
"It's hard to say (what my future will be). I love Minnesota. There are people that have had my back, and supported me. Last year, with the things that took place, had a lot of fans that supported me through everything. For the fans, I would definitely love to come back, but then again, it's a business, when it comes down to business, you can't get caught up in the loyalty to fans or to a team or anything like that. You know how it is in the NFL. I learned a lot through this process. I'm still uneasy, to be honest with you. I'm still uneasy about a lot of things that took place within the organization. Of course those guys ultimately supported me, and I'm grateful for that. But ultimately, with me being able to be on the inside and see how cards were dealt, how things were worded, this, that and the other, it's about protecting your brand, your organization, what you have built. In the (grand) scheme of things, not one person counts over that. I get that."
The 29-year-old Peterson was in Minneapolis on Feb. 6 for a hearing in federal court, as the NFL Players Association sued the league in hopes of gaining Peterson's immediate reinstatement. But unless Judge David Doty rules in the NFLPA's favor, Peterson cannot be reinstated until April 15. He has been complying with the NFL's requirements for reinstatement, adding he talked with Dr. April Kuchuk -- the New York University psychiatry instructor with whom commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Peterson to meet -- to set up a counseling and treatment plan. He has to meet the requirements of his probation in Texas, as well as a child protective services order in Minnesota, after pleading no contest to reckless injury Nov. 4, but Peterson said he has been doing all the work and plans to play somewhere in 2015.
He's just not sure yet if it will be with the Vikings.
"It shows you can have all the loyalty toward someone and toward an organization, a fanbase, but when things really shift and it's you or the empire, they're gonna put you out on a leash," he said. "I said, 'Of course (I would love to come back to the Vikings, after a court hearing in Minneapolis on Feb. 6).' I said it. But my emotions, as far as those things I feel, those are for players like (linebacker) Chad Greenway, those guys that play the game just like me, that have the same passion I have, the same goal I have, to win a championship. That's where it comes from. It don't come from the organization. I'm not in a good place when it comes to that."
Peterson is under contract for 2015, and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $12.75 million from the Vikings. Team president Mark Wilf, chief operating officer Kevin Warren, general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have all recently said they want Peterson to return in 2015, and the Vikings seem to be preparing for Peterson to play his ninth NFL season in Minnesota. But Zimmer has said the relationship needs to be a "two-way street," and Peterson said he knows the Vikings won't force him to be there if he decides he isn't comfortable in Minnesota.
The 2012 NFL MVP spoke highly of Zimmer, saying, "I love that guy, even though I only played one game for him," and had positive things to say about offensive coordinator Norv Turner and running backs coach Kirby Wilson. But asked if his unrest with the Vikings could be solved by sitting down with key members of the organization, Peterson said, "It's way deeper than that. It's definitely not that easy. In any situation, people will say what they need to say to make things better. I discovered that a long time ago.
"I know there are a lot of people in the organization who want me back," he said. "But then again, I know the ones who don't. It's a difficult transition, and it's not just about me. I have a wife who was able to sit back and see how people in Minnesota said this and said that, how media in Minnesota took the head of the situation with my child, and were digging into things that weren't even relevant. That wasn't people in Texas -- it was people in Minnesota that dug in and brought things out. That impacted me, but most importantly, it impacted the people around me -- my family, my kids. This came from the state I love so much, that I wish to bring a championship to? This is how they treat me when I'm down and out? You kick me? My wife (and I), we've had several conversations about me returning to Minnesota, what the best options are. If I left it up to her, I'd be somewhere else today, and that's with her weighing everything. It's a lot for me to weigh; she understands that. But there are some things that I'm still uneasy about."
Peterson, who played just one game last season and touched the ball just 21 times, said he's had more time to train this offseason, given the fact he doesn't have to spend time recovering from the rigors of a NFL season. He lost most of his endorsement deals after he was indicted for reckless injury to a child Sept. 12, but Peterson called the lack of endorsements "a blessing in disguise," since they've allowed him to limit his travel schedule and work out in Texas.
"Just having the time to sit back and clear my mind, this has really changed me mentally," he said. "My approach to things is going to be on a different level. With the things I've been through the last year, things definitely have more meaning. When I'm able to apply that when I'm working out and getting ready for something, it's always a great thing. It's always great when I'm able to put in great quality work. I'm ready to shock the world."
If Peterson isn't reinstated until April 15, he'd return to the league more than a month after the start of free agency. But when asked if he thought that meant no team could pay him as much as the Vikings are scheduled to, Peterson said, "I don't know if that would be the case. But you know, as far as being happy, as far as my family being happy, it's bigger than that."
He said he continues to pray about his future and where he should play.
"That's how I'll know," he said.