The week began with a video of an NFL player viciously assaulting his wife, knocking her unconscious with one punch. The week is ending with news that another NFL star is in hot water, this time on charges of reckless injury to a child.
This was not a good week for the NFL. Not good at all. The only thing missing was an asteroid hitting the NFL offices.
The NFL has seen its share of tragedies over the decades, and ranking them would be tasteless—but there have been few weeks, if any, that were as stunning in their ugliness and as brutal in their appearance as this one. The Jovan Belcher tragedy was frighteningly sad, but there is something about the abuse of a woman caught on tape and the alleged abuse of a child that is particularly stunning. As well as photos of that alleged abuse of a four-year-old.
There is an argument to be made that this was among the worst weeks any North American sports league has ever had. Commissioner Roger Goodell has reason to fear for his job.
Not even the good news of the NFL and union agreeing to a new drug policy could make this week better. A union source said the policy was "one of the most monumental moments in recent NFL history." That is true and it's a big step forward that players will now be tested for human growth hormone, but it pales in comparison to the ugly side of what happened in football this week.
The details of the Adrian Peterson allegations are particularly disturbing, and if true—and we're a long way from that being proven in court—he can expect discipline from the league. An NFL team official who viewed the alleged pictures of the leg of Peterson's four-year-old son speculated that if they're legitimate and if Peterson is found guilty of reckless injury to a child, he can expect "a significant suspension."
The Vikings have deactivated Peterson. It's unclear when Peterson will take the field again.
Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, released a statement that read in part:
Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.
It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.
That does not sound great for Peterson. The pictures, if accurate, are absolutely devastating. Again, the child in question is four years old and—please read the following carefully—the police say the pictures were about a week old.
We can argue about corporal punishment—and I did with a number of morons on Twitter—but those pictures do not look like the actions of a "loving father."
This passage from a story by Nick Wright of CBS Sports 610 in Houston is stomach-churning:
The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands. Peterson then texted the boy’s mother, saying that one wound in particular would make her “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch."
Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he "felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh" and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, "Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!"
The week would get even worse when Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White made light of the very serious accusation against Peterson. White tweeted (and later deleted) this response to the situation, via Will Brinson:
Like the Rice case, with all of its ugliness and complexities, there will be morons defending Peterson. One issue the NFL will have to deal with in the Peterson case, like the Rice case, is the imagery. Not just the bruises, but the disparity in size between the alleged offender and victim.
Rice is a professional football player who attacked a woman likely 100 pounds lighter. Peterson is 6'1" and weighs 217 pounds. The average four-year-old male is 40 pounds.
What this week shows is that there was a time when sports was a release from the horror, the ugliness, the nastiness that happened in the world and in our lives. Now, much of that is as a part of sports as anything else.
There is only one good thing about this week.
It's just about over.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.