News of Adrian Peterson's minicamp absence elicited varied reaction from our NFC North blog family.
Meanwhile, some blog readers excused Peterson and blamed -- yes -- quarterback Brett Favre.
Mike of Fairbanks, Alaska wrote: "Childress can put whatever spin he wants on it, but he is setting a double standard when he condemns Peterson for missing camp but gives Favre a free ride." Jmonfly called it "The Favre Effect." TheKidSero wondered how Childress could "publicly criticize his best offensive weapon for missing a weekend when he lets his quarterback miss the entire summer?"
So what is going on here? Why did Peterson miss three days of mandatory minicamp, risking a $10,000 fine, to attend a one-day hometown parade in his honor?
Was it really a bizarre and unavoidable circumstance of timing? Did Peterson feel entitled to the "Favre Rules?" Is there more to the story? And are the Vikings now facing a damaging, roster-wide consequence of allowing Favre to set his own offseason schedule?
I'll examine each point below, admittedly without hearing from Peterson -- who hasn't commented since last week.
Phooey on "AP Day"
Please. This can't possibly be a timing issue. I have no doubt that advance planning is required to pull off the annual "Adrian Peterson Day" in Palestine, Texas. But let's put it this way: If Adrian Peterson went to the organizers of Adrian Peterson Day and told them that Adrian Peterson had a mandatory work commitment on the same weekend, I'm guessing it could have been rescheduled.
For whatever reason, even if it was excessive respect for a hometown gesture, Peterson didn't do that. In fact, Childress said Peterson didn't broach the looming conflict until last week. I don't think Peterson could have been so naïve and nonchalant about missing the only three days he is required to spend in Minnesota between February and July. He made a conscious choice.
Missing an NFL minicamp is a big deal and almost never occurs outside of a contract dispute. Coaches have been known to grant once-in-a-lifetime exceptions, but Childress clearly didn't consider it here.
"This is the fourth annual Adrian Peterson Day," Childress said. "I don't know if it's going to be every year. But we're going to have this [mini-camp], too."
I'm not making a value judgment here. It's not for me (or us) to decide what should be more important to Peterson. But let's not fool ourselves. Peterson could have avoided the conflict if he wanted to.
So why didn't he?
The "Favre Rules" are for Favre
It's part of the human condition to identify inequities, perceived or otherwise. We cynical types have a hard time believing it, but apparently there are some people who think life is fair and that they deserve the same treatment as everyone else. Newsflash: It isn't and you aren't. In this instance, I give Childress credit for admitting that his "Brett Favre Rules" are for their namesake only.
"[Favre is ] a special circumstance," Childress said. "I don't think Adrian is batting around retirement in his mind. It's a special set of circumstances. ... Is everything equal? Obviously it's not. That's just the way it is. It's a matter of fact. I think everyone understands that from our side."
While Favre might indeed be "batting around retirement," we're all aware of his distaste for offseason programs and training camp. But this year's absence is a bit trickier because he is on the Vikings' active roster, technically requiring him to attend both minicamp and training camp.
Childress has strongly implied he won't hold Favre to those expectations. Frankly, Favre deserves that latitude after producing one of the best seasons of his career despite missing training camp in 2010. Regardless, even if Childress disagreed, he's powerless to compel Favre otherwise. His team is better with Favre than without, no matter when he reports.
It would be human nature for teammates to resent that treatment or expect it for themselves. But before this weekend, I had never sensed any significant, outward antipathy from a Vikings roster filled with superstars and Pro Bowl players in their own right.
Again, we don't know that Peterson has taken on a Favre-like mentality here. But if he has, he would be alone among Vikings players and wouldn't have much footing to support that belief.
Speaking after the first minicamp practice, Allen put that sentiment into clear language.
"Everybody in this league is on a different program," Allen said. "The best line I ever heard was from a coach who said, 'I won't treat everybody the same, but I will treat everybody fairly.' So not everyone is on the same page. So take that for what it is."
Allen was married two weeks ago, and I'm pretty sure he could have planned and paid for a 14-day honeymoon that would have conflicted with minicamp. He didn't.
In all, a half-dozen key starters have worked out on their own this offseason rather than attend the voluntary portion of the Vikings offseason program. That's a relatively high number, but the only ones who skipped minicamp were Favre, Peterson and defensive end Ray Edwards -- whose unsigned restricted free agent tender prevented him from attending.
I didn't hear any players express concern about Peterson's absence. Most of them seemed surprised. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said "I don't know what to feel" about it but said he had no concerns about Peterson working out on his own. "I know he's not going to come [to training camp] out of shape."
The name of the game is...
For the purposes of this post, we've accepted that Peterson could have attended minicamp if he wanted to. We're also suggesting that the "Favre Rules" haven't (yet) corrupted the Vikings' roster. So where does that leave us?
Last month, we noted Peterson's formidable but delicate contract status. He'll make about $7 million this season and is scheduled to earn $10 million in 2011 before his contract expires. Those figures make him one of the NFL's highest-paid running backs, but they would also leave him at age 27 -- and with five years of NFL pounding -- when it's time for his next one.
If the league's current cap-free rules apply at that point, Peterson would be a restricted free agent and ineligible for either the franchise tag or to change teams freely until 2012. At that point, he would be 28 and nearing ancient status for an NFL running back.
Although Peterson is likely to earn $17 million over the next two years, his contract will become a complex issue at some point. Has that point come earlier than we originally expected? No one has said as much on the record, but missing a mandatory minicamp is often a tell-tale sign in the NFL.
So where does this "if-then" talk leave us? The truth is too tightly guarded to draw any conclusion. But here is something I think we can all agree on: The potential for a future contract dispute, along with the minicamp dustup, has overshadowed what is truly Peterson's most important issue.
This was supposed to be the offseason where Peterson found a way to correct the ball-carrying habits that led to an NFL-high 20 fumbles over the past three seasons. When I asked Childress about that topic Friday, his answers dripped with sarcasm.
Childress first noted that during a modified workout last week, Peterson "got out on the field with his 14-pound ball," a reference to the sand-filled football the NFL Network filmed him carrying. Later, Childress deadpanned that the ball was "part of that comprehensive offseason study" the Vikings supposedly were planning to help Peterson address the problem.
Translation: Nothing of substance has occurred since Peterson fumbled twice and caused a third in the NFC Championship Game. That's the story. It's not about parades or rules or contracts. It's about a superstar player and whether he is taking care of his business on the field.