The NFL Players Association has filed a lawsuit against the NFL in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, challenging an arbitrator's decision made Friday to uphold Adrian Peterson's suspension by the league.
In the lawsuit, the union argues that arbitrator Harold Henderson's decision was biased, unfair and contrary to the collective bargaining agreement. The NFLPA has often gone to the district court in Minnesota to contest labor matters with the league.
The lawsuit comes as ABC News has obtained a recording of the Nov. 12 phone call between Troy Vincent and Peterson in which the NFL executive tells the Minnesota Vikings running back that he would be reinstated after a two-game suspension and get credit for his time on the commissioner's exempt list.
Vincent made the promise with the additional request that Peterson attend a Nov. 14 meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the child abuse case in which he pleaded no contest in Texas to misdemeanor reckless assault for physically disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. Peterson declined to attend the meeting, however, citing uncertainty about the NFL's intent to question him, and the league issued an indefinite suspension to the running back Nov. 18.
The players' association had presented the phone call in its appeal of Peterson's suspension. Henderson, however, sided with Goodell and the NFL last week in saying that Vincent didn't promise any specific discipline, and the NFL didn't retaliate against Peterson for not attending the meeting.
Vincent denied making promises to Peterson during the running back's appeal hearing, and Goodell said that Vincent wasn't speaking for the NFL, but only trying to help Peterson "put this issue behind him and get back to his life, his family, and football.''
"Mr. Vincent testified that he never promised a two-game suspension or that the old policy would control, but rather encouraged Mr. Peterson to 'go through the process and all things will be considered,''' Henderson wrote in his decision. "He said, 'I didn't promise Adrian anything. Never promised. Adrian needed to show up. Talk.'''
A portion of the transcript of the Nov. 12 phone call between Vincent and Peterson that is in question follows:
AP: ''It will be two additional games, not time served.''
TV: "No, no, no, no ... it won't ... The one this weekend. So really, it's just next week and you ... you ... you ... you will be back."
AP: "OK, OK."
Later in the call, Vincent seems to imply that the meeting with Goodell would be key in making the penalty of two games plus time served happen.
AP: "Two games?"
TV: "Yeah, that is it ... but you cannot ... you got ... you've got to act. You gotta just go through the process."
"I cannot and will not regret reaching out to help someone, to guide them in prayer, and give them words of encouragement," Vincent told The Associated Press. "If people want to judge my sincerity by the content of their own hearts, I cannot change that. But when I see a young man like Adrian, I don't want to see him give up on his dreams because of a bad decision. No regrets. I will continue to pray for Adrian and the welfare of his children."
Earlier on Monday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" program that Vincent's conversation with Peterson is troubling and that "the audio tape is the tip of the iceberg" and that the NFL's handling of the case is "a manifest injustice not only to this player but also to the process."
"This is a part of something that is bigger than just Adrian Peterson, Troy Vincent, Ray Rice ... this is another instance in which the National Football League will say anything on one day and do anything on another day to try to support a position that at this point is completely devoid of any rationality," Smith said.
He also says four questions arise from the audiotape of Vincent's conversation with Peterson.
"When he called Adrian Peterson, did he do so at the direction of the commissioner of the National Football League? If he did, that's a problem.
"I was hoping that, by him hearing the evidence, that he would do the right thing with what was presented to him -- knowing that my incident, just like Ray Rice's incident, happened during the old CBA, not the new process they're trying to lay on me."Adrian Peterson
"If he didn't, that's a problem.
"If he said that Adrian Peterson was going to be treated under the old policy and we know he was treated under the new policy, that's a problem.
"And if the head of football operations lacks the integrity to deal with a union member like Adrian Peterson in a forthright way, that's a problem."
Smith said that if Vincent did make the promise of a two-game suspension contingent on him attending a meeting with the NFL, then "Adrian Peterson was punished for not appearing at a meeting that as a union member he had a right not to go to."
"I asked Adrian to come because nobody had talked to this man," Vincent said. "We had a group of experts and educators asking us questions about the welfare of Adrian's other children and we didn't know the answers. He needed to come talk so they could hear from him."
"Adrian had no clue what was going on," Vincent said. "He wasn't getting help from the people around him."
Last Friday, Peterson told ESPN.com's Ben Goessling in a conversation that he also said he has contemplated retirement as a result of the ruling, that he thought it would be a "no-brainer" that he would win his appeal based on the evidence presented.
"But I knew the odds were against me. It would have been nice to have an unbiased arbitrator, kind of like the Rice case, and not have anyone who has the NFL's best interests in mind in that type of situation. It's unfortunate," he said.
"I was hoping that, by him hearing the evidence, that he would do the right thing with what was presented to him -- knowing that my incident, just like Ray Rice's incident, happened during the old CBA, not the new process they're trying to lay on me.
"That has been tough to deal with. I'm built for it. It is what it is. Now I've got to sit back and go through this [lawsuit] process. Hopefully they're not biased. I don't see why it would be tough to rule against the arbitrator. If we would've had an unbiased arbitrator, it might have turned out different."
ESPN's Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.