MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, whose suspension until at least April 2015 was upheld by arbitrator Harold Henderson on Friday, said he's been so disappointed by the NFL's disciplinary process that he's thought about retirement.
In a 60-minute phone interview with ESPN, Peterson said he plans to file a lawsuit against the league, adding he wasn't sure if he could trust the NFL's process for reinstatement. If a lawsuit would eventually put the 2012 NFL MVP's chance for reinstatement at risk, Peterson said he would consider walking away from the game altogether.
"I've considered retiring from the NFL," Peterson said. "I still made $8 million dollars this year. I've thought about getting back into the real estate (business in Texas) I'm already in. That's something I've been interested in, something I'm involved in. I've thought about getting back into that. I've thought about going after the Olympics -- you only live once. It might be time for me to pursue that, as well. I love playing football, don't get me wrong, but this situation is deeper than that. For me, it's like, 'Why should I continue to be a part of an organization or a business that handles players the way they do? Making money off the field anyway, why not continue to pursue that (Olympic) dream and pursue other dreams and hang up the cleats?'"
A lawsuit will be filed against the NFL on Peterson's behalf in federal court in Minnesota on Monday, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
Peterson said he's interested in competing in the 200- and 400-meter dashes in the Olympics, adding, "I've seriously thought about this real hard. I continue to pray about it, but it's been something that has been heavy, heavy on my heart.
"Of course I'd miss it. It's my first love. But the reason I would be walking away from it would be (if the next steps in the process) kind of solidify that hurt from these incidents. I would know that, 'Hey, you're walking away not because you've given up. You're walking away because they're handling you all the way wrong in this situation. They're painting you out to be a guy that you're not."
The running back, who was indicted by a grand jury in September for recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son while disciplining him with a switch, said he saw his son at a counselor's office in Minnesota last week for the first time since the incident.
"He was running to me, and he jumped in my arms," Peterson said. "I know the counselor is thinking, 'This is not what I expected.' The kid jumped in my arms. He was rubbing my head, pulling me to go play with him."
Peterson said he's now able to see his son regularly. He spoke passionately about his relationship with his son and the criticism he's received during the last several months, saying media coverage of the case and comments from public officials have unfairly portrayed him as a child abuser. He said several allegations that first emerged in reports about the incident -- like the one that he put leaves in his son's mouth while he whipped him -- were false, and added he's already been approached by several millionaires about starting a charity to raise awareness about domestic violence.
Thousands of child-abuse cases in Minnesota, Peterson said, don't receive the attention they should.
"(Elected officials in Minnesota) make it seem like, 'This is what we do with all our cases,'" Peterson said. "I wish that's what you do. I get it. People care about Adrian Peterson, what he's doing and all, but I feel like they should do that with all the other cases. ... I see things for what they are. Yeah, they've got Adrian Peterson, so it's, 'Let's put our stamp on it.' Please continue to put your stamp on all these cases. There are kids in Minnesota begging for help, freezing, and their (cases are) getting solved with a phone call."
Peterson said executive vice president Troy Vincent told him in a face-to-face meeting in early November that he would get a two-game suspension, along with credit for time served, if he attended a meeting in New York with commissioner Roger Goodell. Peterson eventually chose not to attend the meeting, he said, when the league would not provide details on the nature and scope of it. The league then suspended him for the rest of the season Nov. 18.
Peterson can appeal the decision in federal court. Asked Friday if he planned to pursue legal action, he said, "Of course."
Peterson turns 30 in March, and isn't eligible to be reinstated until more than a month after the start of the league year, when most teams will spend their largest amounts of money in free agency. He is scheduled to count $15 million against the Vikings' salary cap next season, but said he didn't see why he'd need to take a pay cut in 2015.
"I don't see why it would be the case," Peterson said. "I see me being a better player than I was."
He's been watching the Vikings' games this season, imagining how he'd fit in their offense and how much he'd help rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He's been keeping himself in shape in the event he was reinstated, and even went so far earlier this week as to study the convoluted scenario by which the Vikings could have made the playoffs. They were officially eliminated Thursday night.
"I feel like in Minnesota, they have the talent to win a championship," he said. "Each week, I've watched these guys play their butts off. It hurts me to see my presence not there and help those guys. The only thing I can do is sit back and imagine the weight that would be lifted off Teddy's back (if I was out there). It'd be night and day. I'm able to sit back and watch, able to see the difference I make. I really don't look at myself in that light (very often), but I can really see how much I matter."
Peterson acknowledged a "fresh start" with another team might be an option, but said he knows the team's football operations department supports him. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported earlier this month that team executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren had been working with the NFL to keep Peterson off the field for the rest of the season, but Peterson said the people in the Vikings organization who haven't supported him are "in the big scheme of things, not relevant."
In several trips back to Minnesota, Peterson said he's also felt support from the Vikings fan base.
"I sit back and watch the games, see 28 jerseys out there," he said. "I've been back to Minnesota a couple times. From the moment I get on the plane in Houston, people ask for pictures (and) say, 'You got a raw deal.' People I see in Eden Prairie, it has all been positive. That's kind of reassuring. It makes me feel good as well. There's people in the organization that I know hands-down love me. I feel skeptical, of course, but that has been comforting."
But in the time he's spent away from the Vikings, he's also had more time to be at home with his wife, Ashley, and son Adrian Jr., and see his other children. That time, Peterson said, has made him count the cost of the NFL grind.
"I've been able to do things like getting kids signed up for schools. My wife and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house. We plan on having everyone here for Christmas," he said. "I got to go to 'Dad and Donuts Day' with my daughter (Adeja). I'm able to be around her more, take her to school. That's a lot of the reason (I think about retiring); I'm able to spend the time. Once you get back and you're not playing for a season, you really get to see the things you're missing out on."