The NFL isn't trying to end Adrian Peterson's career, rather it is trying to extend the running back's time in the league, NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said Wednesday morning.
Pash made his comments on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike," responding to criticism of Peterson's suspension for the rest of the season from the running back's attorney, Rusty Hardin, made earlier in the show.
"The critical component of what the commissioner [Roger Goodell] did yesterday was put in place a program that will help Mr. Peterson succeed. It will help him extend his career," Pash said. "We're not trying to end his career. We want to extend his career. We want to have a great player on the field with the confidence that he won't face these kind of issues again."
On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Peterson without pay for at least the remainder of the season for his child abuse case in Texas, where he pleaded no contest to charges over the discipline of his 4-year-old son, who suffered cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, his back and on one of his testicles, according to court records.
Peterson will not be considered for NFL reinstatement before April 15.
Hardin, who represented Peterson in his criminal case, criticized the NFL's punishment and compared the league's approach to Peterson's case to its handling of Ray Rice's domestic violence case.
"I'm just amazed the way they just keep making these things up as they go along," Hardin said. "They looked bad in the earlier things. With Ray Rice, they handled things badly, publicly. And now, they've just decided to make Adrian the scapegoat for all of their past failings."
Peterson is appealing the suspension on the grounds that he was told that he would receive credit for his time on the commissioner's exempt list, which he was placed on Sept. 18. Peterson was paid his full salary while on that list but filed a grievance, arguing he should have been reinstated from the exempt list as soon as his child abuse case was resolved Nov. 4.
Arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of the NFL on Tuesday evening, however, meaning Peterson will remain on the exempt list even if he appeals, effectively ending his season.
Sources confirmed to ESPN's Ed Werder and Chris Mortensen that Peterson was told by an NFL official that his time on the exempt list would be considered time served.
Vikings fullback Jerome Felton questioned the viability of the exempt list for players moving forward.
"I would not expect any player to voluntarily go on [the exempt list] at this point forward," Felton said. "Who knows what their reasoning was [for using the list in the first place]?"
"It's unprecedented," Felton added. "At this point forward, it doesn't do the player any good. I don't see why you would do that going forward."
Peterson already has paid dearly because of his case, Hardin said.
"This has cost him his reputation. It's cost him millions of dollars," Hardin said. "Every endorser dropped him like a hotcake. Next to Peyton Manning, he was the second [most] heavily endorsed athlete in the NFL.
"He's lost all of that, all because of the public's outcry, the people's perception of this. He's paid for that. And now the NFL wants to come along and keep him from working an entire year? And everybody says, well, it didn't cost him any money. What do you mean it didn't cost him any money? It's cost him current; it's cost him future."
Pash rejected any criticism that the NFL isn't being consistent with Peterson's punishment, pointing out that it falls within the guidelines of the NFL's new domestic violence policy announced by Goodell in August, which calls for a minimum six-game suspension for first-time offenders.
Hardin maintains that Peterson "made a mistake" that "had unintended consequences."
"It wasn't child abuse. Nobody that knows him and his children believes he ever intentionally hurts his children and abuses," Hardin said.
Pash rebuked Hardin for not attending Friday's hearing with the league, saying he could have explained his side in a formal forum rather than criticizing the league in the media for the punishment it meted out.
"He could have come in and talked to us about that. He could have told us what the response of the criminal justice system in Texas was and how we ought to evaluate that," Pash said. "We could have talked to Mr. Peterson about the therapy and the counseling that he's been undergoing. We could have talked to him about what kind of plan he wanted to put in place to enhance his own prospect for success going forward. We were fully prepared to do that."
ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling contributed to this report.