MINNEAPOLIS -- On Wednesday afternoon, Minnesota Vikings president Mark Wilf became the highest-ranking team official to express public support for the idea of suspended running back Adrian Peterson returning to the team next season.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Wilf Family Center at the University of Minnesota Masonic Hospital -- which was made possible by a $5 million gift from the Vikings owners' foundation -- Wilf said the team would welcome back Peterson if he is reinstated by the NFL this spring.
"Adrian's done a lot of good in this community," Wilf said. "He's done a lot for us on the football field, as well. Of course, he's a Minnesota Viking, and we'd love to have him back. And of course, a lot depends on the NFL and steps he's making in his own personal journey. That's where we're at with it."
It was the first comment from a member of Vikings ownership on Peterson since Sept. 17, when the 2012 NFL MVP was placed on the commissioner's exempt list. Peterson, who was indicted Sept. 12 for injuring his son while using a wooden switch to discipline him in May, pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to a misdemeanor count of reckless injury and was suspended Nov. 18 for the rest of the season. He cannot be reinstated until at least April 15, although the NFL Players Association is suing the NFL in U.S. District Court, seeking Peterson's immediate reinstatement.
Coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman previously had expressed support for Peterson in their season-ending news conferences, and in a brief set of remarks after the lawsuit hearing Friday in Minneapolis, Peterson said "of course" he wants to return to the team.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the Vikings will bring Peterson back for 2015 under his current contract, which calls for the soon-to-be 30-year-old running back to make $12.75 million, or whether the team will try to restructure his deal.
Peterson told ESPN in December that he didn't think he should have to take a pay cut next season, adding he believed he would be a better running back in 2015 than he would have been in 2014. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported in November 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. Peterson, however, said in December that the people in the Vikings organization who haven't supported him are "in the big scheme of things, not relevant."
The Vikings are not allowed to speak directly with Peterson until he is reinstated, although they can have contact with his agent.