MANKATO, Minn. -- If some good came of Adrian Peterson's unfortunate use of analogies this offseason, it's this: It forced one of the NFL's highest-profile players into a bond with two of the world's most prominent advocates for ending human trafficking.
As you probably tried to forget, Peterson described the league's labor relationship with players as "modern-day slavery" in a March interview with Yahoo! Sports. The comment drew national rebuke for its gross exaggeration. Around here, it grew especially worrisome when Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, among others, began supporting Peterson's "position." (I posted my thoughts on the matter here.)
In May, Peterson shot a video for the DNA Foundation, founded by actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. He spoke publicly about the matter for the first time Friday, taking full accountability for his word choice and saying he has committed to further cooperation with the DNA Foundation.
"I regret using those words," Peterson said. "Because obviously there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that you can compare to slavery. It stands alone. ... I should have used better wording to put out there. But it's spoiled milk. It's old. Hopefully we can move on."
I'm all for that, especially now that Peterson has made clear what I think he knew all along: That modern-day slavery actually exists under a different name: human trafficking. I've always believed that Peterson wasn't making any sort of political statement. He has always presented himself as a professional and respectful public figure, and there was no reason to think he harbored some previously unexpressed level of insensitivity. Like many of us, he probably just didn't know that in 2010, 12.3 million people world-wide were in forced or bonded labor.
To that end, Peterson jumped at the chance to work with Moore and Kutcher.
"They approached me," Peterson said. "It was a great deal. I had fun with Demi Moore and Ashton. They are some great people and we're actually getting together to do some things for my foundation and his foundation this year with human trafficking. And it's going to be exciting."
I give Peterson all the credit in the world for working to make an inadvertent wrong into an intentional right.
Which, in some strange way, brings us to his return to the Minnesota Vikings' training camp Friday. After missing three days to witness the birth of his son, named Adrian Jr., Peterson said he is excited about the Vikings' new offense and in no way concerned that the team has yet to extend his contract, due to expire after this season.
"I'm comfortable where I'm at," he said. "I'm committed to my deal. It's obviously the last year of my deal. I have guys that take care of that, my agents Ben Dogra and Tom Condon. I'll let those guys handle that. For now I'm focused on football. I'm not worried about contract at all."
Peterson said he never considered holding out, and the truth is he has every reason to feel comfortable at this moment. Thanks to a number of contract accelerators, he will earn a princely $10.72 million this season. He could earn an additional $2.5 million in bonuses, a situation that makes him much different than Tennessee Titans tailback Chris Johnson, who is holding out, and even Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, who admitted he thought about holding out until the Bears assured him an offer was on the way.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has said the team values Peterson's presence in the long-term, but Peterson's current contract effectively eliminates the pressure many teams come under to offer early extensions for players who might have overperformed their rookie contracts. While Peterson would assuredly like an extension, he couldn't possibly argue he is underpaid with a $10.72 million salary.
As we discussed last month, the Vikings face a complicated decision on Peterson's future. But at this moment, everyone can relax. Peterson will happily collect an eight-figure salary, and the Vikings have the opportunity to get another workhorse season from the game's best running back without having to make a future commitment.