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Vikings' short statement speaks volumes about their plan for Adrian Peterson

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twenty-three words.

That was all the Minnesota Vikings had to offer on Thursday, in a statement responding to the news that Adrian Peterson, for the first time in seven months, would be permitted to rejoin their team. It read, "The Minnesota Vikings have been informed by the NFL that Adrian Peterson has been reinstated. We look forward to Adrian re-joining the Vikings."

Really, what more needed to be said?

Two months ago, almost as though the green flag had waved over their efforts, Vikings officials began a series of earnest public remarks, letting the world know they were ready to welcome Peterson back and begin afresh after the running back's legal travails. When contacted by ESPN on Feb. 19, Peterson said he'd heard the statements -- mostly through family members -- but was "still uneasy" about returning to the Vikings. The team, he said, didn't show him sufficient support last fall, when it really counted. The decision to put him on the commissioner's exempt list, after sponsors balked at the Vikings' initial announcement that Peterson would play during his legal case, was an "ambush," Peterson said. He'd heard what the public had said after his indictment on child injury charges, and it made him question whether he and his family would be welcomed in a return to Minnesota. His agent, Ben Dogra, took things a step further in March, saying he didn't think it was in Peterson's "best interests" to continue his career with the Vikings.

The positions of both sides have been out there for public consumption for the better part of two months now. Peterson wants to play elsewhere; the Vikings either plan to bring him back -- at the cost of $12.75 million for 2015 -- or are taking part in some of the most intricate and elaborate trade posturing we've seen. And if the Vikings had privately indicated to Dogra that they'd look to move the running back, it would make little sense for Dogra to announce Peterson wanted out. Thursday's long-expected announcement from the NFL merely removed the final procedural barrier standing between the team and the former league MVP; all that remains now is to see if the emotional barricades will come down or not.

We could have our answer in two weeks, if the Vikings decide to part with Peterson in a draft-night trade. Or we could be waiting through a vigil that consumes offseason workouts, organized team activities (OTAs) and the team's June 16-18 minicamp -- the first event the Vikings could fine Peterson for missing. But if the Vikings decide not to trade Peterson during the draft, they're essentially betting on the belief that they've still got enough time, and enough people in the organization who still have Peterson's respect, to win him over. Especially if the choice is between playing for them or playing for no one, Peterson's misgivings could evaporate over time.

If given permission to extrapolate -- and you know how writers love to do that -- I'd translate the Vikings' statement this way: "The NFL has informed us of Adrian Peterson's reinstatement, which we have anticipated and now welcome. We are prepared to return to business as usual, once again making a 30-year-old the highest-paid running back in the league. What we are not prepared to do is give Mr. Peterson away for nothing -- and likely not for less than a handsome sum in a trade. We are confident that, absent a wide array of options, Mr. Peterson will also eventually choose to return to business as usual."

I've often thought during the past two months about Peterson's comments from Feb. 19, that his relationship with the Vikings was still amicable enough that the team wouldn't force him to stay in Minnesota if it knew he was unhappy. "I understand they respect me enough that if, for whatever reason, I wasn't happy and didn't want to come back to Minnesota, they wouldn't want me to be unhappy," Peterson said. "I know I have enough respect and know those guys well enough to know that much about them."

When he said it, Peterson sounded like a man who believed the personal relationships he'd formed over eight years in Minnesota would hold sway over the business realities dictating his current situation. But really, that's always what Peterson's rift with the Vikings -- and to an extent, the NFL -- has been about, and over the past seven months, personal interests haven't won out too many times here. As Peterson forlornly said in February, "Ultimately, with me being able to be on the inside and see how cards were dealt, how things were worded, this, that and the other, it's about protecting your brand, your organization, what you have built. In the [grand] scheme of things, not one person counts over that. I get that."

The Vikings didn't say anything on Thursday to suggest that will change. Which means all we could be waiting for is to see what Peterson will do.