Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson could be headed for showdown

MINNEAPOLIS -- Last month, when he made his first extensive comments about the fractured state of his relationship with the Minnesota Vikings, and detailed his trepidation about returning to a franchise he was no longer sure he could trust, Adrian Peterson held out hope he still had enough goodwill in the organization to depart without a showdown.

"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 in an interview with ESPN on Feb. 19. "I know I have enough respect and know those guys well enough to know that much about them."

Now, it appears that theory will be put to the test. The Vikings still haven't moved from their position that they want Peterson back in 2015, leading Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, to decline a dinner meeting with Rick Spielman after the Vikings general manager informed Dogra the team would not release Peterson. Dogra doubled down Monday, telling ESPN's Kevin Seifert he didn't think it was in Peterson's "best interests" to stay in Minnesota and plainly stating to USA Today's Jarrett Bell that "we want out of Minnesota."

From a football perspective, the Vikings' position is easy to understand. They have Peterson under contract until 2017, are prepared to pay him his $12.75 million base salary at age 30, believe he's in line for another transcendent told-you-so season after missing 15 games in 2014 and want to see what they can do with Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater in the same backfield. Peterson told ESPN last month he's ready to "shock the world" in 2015; he ran for 2,097 yards and won league MVP honors the last time he talked like that. After weathering a season without Peterson and the firestorm that came with his child injury case last fall, shouldn't the Vikings use their leverage to make sure they're in position to cash in on the payoff for not cutting Peterson after he was indicted last September?

Other than a $250,000 workout bonus -- which would be rendered moot if Peterson skips the team's offseason program -- the Vikings don't owe Peterson any money until the start of the regular season. They can wait him out and keep reminding him how many teammates, coaches and club officials still love him. They're banking on his emotions cooling, particularly when he's faced with the prospect of sitting out a second consecutive season and ostensibly kissing the days of eight-figure salaries goodbye. They're dealing from a place of strong leverage. Especially if they still believe Peterson will come around in the end -- and I think they do -- there's no reason to give him away for less than fair value.

To play out that position, though, the Vikings will have to be ready for things to get ugly. Dogra came out swinging on the first day of the owners meetings Monday, and if Peterson's camp is intent on forcing his exit from Minnesota, they might try to turn the relationship as frosty as possible. Coach Mike Zimmer has said he only wants Peterson back if the Vikings' interest in him is reciprocal; he might have to table that idea for now, particularly if his bosses want to call Peterson's bluff.

The Vikings' history has been to part with malcontents such as Randy Moss and Percy Harvin, but based on his résumé in Minnesota to this point, it wouldn't be prudent to lump Peterson in with those two. He's licking his wounds after a pratfall more than he's pouting (and yes, there's a difference). Nothing in his past suggests he would let unhappiness sap his effort on the field; if anything, Peterson has been at his best when he runs with an edge. The Vikings still think Peterson will soften his stance, and believe he can deliver a magnificent payoff if they wait. If they're committed to that strategy, though, they might have to see it through a few more weeks, even months, of an impasse.

That goes for their fans, too. Plenty of you have said you're tired of this ordeal, and those hoping for a quick resolution might not get it. We've got a long way to go before this becomes the kind of acrimonious split Brett Favre had with Green Bay, and there's a major difference in that the Vikings are trying to keep Peterson, not orchestrate a quiet departure. But whenever there's potential for things to get nasty between a team and its franchise player, though, fans often bear the brunt of the emotional damage.

Peterson didn't seem to think he'd have trouble getting his wishes granted if he asked to leave Minnesota. Perhaps that was naive, or perhaps the Vikings have taken a different tack than he expected. The team's position makes good strategic sense, and it could still result in a peace being brokered between the two sides. What became clear from Dogra's comments -- and while we're at it, Spielman and team president Mark Wilf saying they expect Peterson to be part of their team in 2015 -- is that both sides are digging in. There's no compromise that will get each party what it currently wants, and unless one changes its position, we could be doing this for a while.