EDEN PRAIRIE, Minnesota — Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman spoke glowingly and definitively about Adrian Peterson's character, his contributions to the team and his ability to return from nearly a full season off to be an impact player again.
The only thing Spielman declined to say with certainty was whether Peterson will be back with the Vikings next season.
"I don't know if there's a team in the NFL that wouldn't want Adrian Peterson on their football team," Spielman said on Wednesday in his first public comments about Peterson since the star running back was suspended by the NFL for striking his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.
"If you can name me one ... and I don't want to speak for other teams ... but I know that he's a pretty good football player."
Peterson's future with the team that drafted him in 2007 has been in question ever since he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault for disciplining his son.
Peterson missed all but one game this season while addressing the charges and was suspended by the NFL in December for the remainder of the 2014 season, with the league saying he will not be considered for reinstatement until April 15.
Peterson will turn 30 in March and is set to count more than $15 million against the Vikings' salary cap next season, leading to speculation that Vikings could decide to trade or release him or ask him to take a pay cut.
But coach Mike Zimmer said at season's end that he would welcome Peterson's return to the team "if he gets his life in order."
Spielman stopped short of guaranteeing Peterson's return, but his comments about Peterson's contributions to the community and perseverance painted the picture of a player who is respected within the organization.
"There is no doubt or no question on what Adrian Peterson has done for this organization on the field and what he is as a football player," Spielman said. "I think people tend to forget, when Adrian did make a mistake, he admitted he made a mistake, he went through the process in the court system. . He's currently suspended by the NFL right now. But he's done a lot of positive things in this community as well."
Spielman also expressed a firm belief that Peterson would be able to return to form as one of the league's best running backs even after sitting out almost an entire season and hitting 30, the age when many running backs start to experience a fast and steep decline in production. Spielman pointed to 2012, when Peterson returned from a horrific knee injury to rush for 2,097 yards and was the league MVP.
"Knowing Adrian, I know that he is going to want to come back and play (and) he's going to play at a very high level when he comes back," Spielman said. "I'm anticipating that, just knowing Adrian from what he's done in the past."
Spielman would not comment on Peterson's contract situation and said the team cannot be in contact with Peterson during his suspension.
The NFL Players' Association has filed a lawsuit in federal court in an effort to overturn the arbitrator Harold Henderson's decision to uphold Peterson's suspension. An initial court hearing will be held in Minneapolis on Feb. 6.
Spielman said they would like to have a more definitive plan for Peterson before free agency and the draft come around to give them ample opportunity to add another running back if he is no longer in purple. The draft will be held starting on April 30.
"Is there a resolution? Not right now," Spielman said. "All I know is where we stand today. Does that change? I'm sure it's going to change. But until those things change, until things get resolved, right now, we have Adrian Peterson, who is under contract next year, who is currently suspended by the NFL, and that's pretty much all I can go into right now."
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