"He's served his penalty," Fitzgerald said, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota. "He deserves the opportunity to come back, and I know everybody in the league feels he's served his time. I mean, he made a mistake, he's apologized for it, he's taken the precautionary steps to make amends for everything and I think he deserves to be back on the field."
Fitzgerald added that the financial losses Peterson has suffered are punishment enough for the Minnesota Vikings running back.
"He's lost millions of dollars, endorsements, all types of things," Fitzgerald said. "How much more can a man take? He's apologized. We all make mistakes in life."
Since last September, Peterson has remained on the NFL's exempt list and barred from any team activities. Harold Henderson, a third-party arbitrator, upheld the suspension upon appeal in December. Following the unsuccessful appeal, Peterson can't apply for reinstatement into the league until April 15.
The suspension came about after a Montgomery County (Texas) prosecutor charged Peterson with felony child-abuse after the 29-year-old allegedly beat his four-year-old son with a "whip-like tree branch," per Des Bieler of The Washington Post. Peterson agreed to a plea deal last November, accepting a misdemeanor reckless-assault charge.
Fitzgerald's comments follow Teddy Bridgewater's proclamation last Friday that he wants to see Peterson return to Minnesota.
"From the brief time that I spent with him, he's a great guy," Bridgewater said, per Tomasson. "And I loved practicing with him throughout training camp, and I watched how he approached that first game of the season against St. Louis. It just really hit home with me, and I would love to play with him."
Whatever happens to Peterson, nothing will likely get resolved until April at the earliest, unless the league decides to waive that stipulation.