History might help Jones avoid tampering

MINNEAPOLIS -- Here's what we know about Adrian Peterson's phone call with Jerry Jones, based on ESPN senior writer Don Van Natta's story and the running back's statement after the piece was published on Thursday afternoon: Jones was handed a phone in his suite at AT&T Stadium on the night of George Strait's final concert. He talked with Peterson for several minutes, and confirmed to Van Natta after the call that Peterson told him he's interested in playing with the Dallas Cowboys at the end of his time with the Minnesota Vikings.

The point at which Peterson's tenure in Minnesota ends is, mostly, up to the Vikings, who have him under contract through the 2017 season and could release him after next season with just a $2.4 million cap hit. So in the meantime, the main question before us is this: Does a casual conversation between a high-profile player and an opposing team official, expressing mutual admiration and general talk about the possibility of working together at a future date, constitute tampering?

NFL rules say if a team is contacted by a player under contract with another club, "the contacted club must immediately report such contact to the owner or operating head of the club which holds the player's rights." Jones told Van Natta he did not contact the Vikings, has not talked with Peterson since the call and did not consider the exchange to constitute tampering. A precedent established six years ago might support his point.

Back then, of course, the Green Bay Packers filed tampering charges against the Vikings for former coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's contact with Brett Favre while the quarterback was weighing his options during the summer of 2008. Favre eventually decided to play, was traded to the New York Jets and wound up with the Vikings a year later, but the NFL dismissed the Packers' tampering claim on the grounds that neither Favre nor the Vikings were soliciting one another.

Were the Vikings to file tampering charges against the Cowboys, they might have a stronger case to make because of Jones' on-the-record confirmations that Peterson expressed interest in playing for the Cowboys and the owner did not report the conversation to the Vikings. But as far as we know, it's not as though Peterson told Jones to trade for him this season, or Jones promised Peterson a job if he should ever leave Minnesota.

A Vikings official would not comment on whether the team would file a tampering claim against the Cowboys, saying the club would defer to the NFL. Peterson has mused openly about the possibility of playing in Texas before, and his phone call with Jones represents a more direct version of those thoughts. If the NFL were to apply the same standard to this phone call that it did to the Vikings' 2008 talks with Favre, though, the Cowboys might not face repercussions for Jones' decision not to report the conversation to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.