Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson managed to put off-field distractions behind him en route to a fantastic 2015 season, but the reigning rushing champion reflected on his difficult road in an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated.
In a feature by Greg Bishop, the 30-year-old superstar most notably discussed the death of one of his sons, as well as the child-abuse scandal that led to his absence in all but one game during the 2014 campaign.
Peterson has since shown remorse for his actions and insisted he will never use a switch again to discipline his child, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, but he still feels misunderstood based on his interactions with commissioner Roger Goodell, per Bishop:
Roger Goodell, man, I don't know. ... This is when I knew he was blind to the fact of what I was going through. I sat down with him. He asked me, "What is a whuppin'?" ... It was one of the first questions. ... It kind of showed me we were on a totally different level. It's just the way of life. For instance, in Texas, we know what whuppin's are. Down there, if it snows, people are going to go crazy. They're going to close schools. They're going to shut it down. Here, you're used to that. It was just a tough situation, because of misperception. ... I get it. I get why. But you still shouldn't pass judgment on people when you don't know.
The 2012 NFL MVP also revealed that the manner in which his case was handled left such a bad taste in his mouth that he nearly walked away from the sport of football:
I thought about retirement. I was serious, man. It was just like an emotional roller coaster that I was going on. Being angry with the NFL for how things were handled, with the organization and the judicial system as well. ... After I'm like, "OK, I finally got this behind me," they come back and switch it up. I was like, "Wow." It just went to show how politics and how people will cover themselves. ... I feel like when you know someone is innocent, then you should stand by that. But in this world it's not about that. It's about people doing what's going to make them look good.
The Vikings and their fans are certainly glad Peterson reconsidered, as he led the NFL with 1,485 rushing yards and was the driving force behind their run to an 11-5 record and the NFC North title.
While some of what Peterson had to overcome was brought upon himself, that wasn't the case in regard to the death of his two-year-old son in 2013.
The boyfriend of the child's mother was convicted of murdering Peterson's son in September, but the Vikings star still seeks closure to some degree.
Peterson didn't meet the boy until just before his death, which is something he continues to regret two years after the fact:
Here I am, young, I'm not seeking to find out if this child is mine. (But) we finally were able to get in contact with each other and get a test done to see if I was the father. And I found out he was mine. ... Because I was immature, I missed out on being able to see my son call me Dad. That's something that I have to live with for the rest of my life. ... My first time seeing him, he was on his deathbed. He was sitting there, with tubes in his mouth. It was unexplainable, the feeling that I had. I really had to stay prayed up. But, you know, it helps me with moving forward and making sure that I always keep my kids near. It's a reminder that, hey, tomorrow's not promised to anyone. So cherish the time you have with your family, your kids. Because you never know.
Peterson has been through a lot in his personal life over the past couple of years, and while his dominance on the football field cannot change that, it is an outlet he has taken full advantage of.
Many athletes have managed to repair their image in the court of public opinion by performing well within their profession, with Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez serving as prime examples, and Peterson seems to be well on his way to that status if he hasn't gotten there already.
His missteps may never fully be forgotten, but Peterson's excellence as a running back is currently at the forefront, and he has a chance to cement that fact by taking the Vikes on an unexpected run through the playoffs.
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