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What April 15 means in Adrian Peterson case

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MINNEAPOLIS -- On the off-chance you haven't heard, Wednesday is the first day the NFL will consider reinstatement for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who technically isn't suspended at this point, but remains on the commissioner's exempt list in a sort of purgatory after federal judge David Doty ordered the league to vacate Peterson's suspension.

Since the NFL first laid out the terms of Peterson's suspension on Nov. 18 -- after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault on Nov. 4 -- we've talked about the April 15 date so much that it's become a metonym for the running back's reinstatement. But now that we're here, it's probably useful to revisit the letter commissioner Roger Goodell sent to Peterson in November and see what exactly the NFL had planned for today.

"In order to assess your progress going forward, I will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015," Goodell wrote. "At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extent to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay.”

Peterson's meeting with Goodell actually took place last week in New York, and the NFL's original plan did not establish April 15 as a deadline for Peterson's reinstatement. It could happen soon, and it seems likely the NFL will reinstate Peterson, especially considering the fact Doty's order still stands, pending an appeal. At some point, the league needs to give the Vikings some clarity about Peterson's status, with offseason workouts starting Monday and the draft beginning two weeks from Thursday.

If the Vikings are as intent on keeping Peterson as they say they are, the timetable for his reinstatement has probably helped them by drying out some of his options to play elsewhere. But if the Vikings have interest in trading Peterson, they (and he) need enough time to work out the complexities of his contract with a new team before the draft.

There's little doubt that some of Peterson's ambivalence about returning to Minnesota is rooted in his belief the Vikings could have put more pressure on the NFL to resolve his case. The team might have an opportunity to show some goodwill to Peterson by speaking out about the need for his reinstatement now, but in a black-and-white sense, there's nothing to prevent the NFL from dragging this out a little longer.