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The writing on the wall for Adrian Peterson's suspension appeal came in the form of a telephone that never rang. In an odd way, that might be the perfect scenario for the Minnesota Vikings.
Peterson's appeal appeared dead shortly after arbiter Harold Henderson ordered the league and NFL Players Association to find a way to resolve Peterson's appeal without Henderson playing the final judge and jury. But the NFL never reached out to strike a resolution, a source familiar with the proceedings told Yahoo Sports. Instead, the source said, the league stood pat, confident Henderson (a former NFL executive) would rule in its favor, which seemed likely, considering Henderson was appointed by league commissioner Roger Goodell … who was, in effect, Henderson's boss when he worked for the NFL.
That led us to Friday, with Peterson shut down for the rest of the season, and the NFL surely happy to have bounced back after having a suspension overturned against former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice. Meanwhile, the NFLPA is grousing, as expected: "The NFLPA expected this outcome, given the hearing officer's relationship and financial ties to the NFL."
But within all of this is a semi-win for the Vikings because all of this leads to a higher likelihood of Peterson being on the roster in 2015 – if that's what the team actually wants. It's a welcome timeout for anyone in the franchise who bristled at the thought of dealing with further sponsorship fallout if Peterson were to play this year. It also limits Peterson's options should he desire a trade.
When this whole suspension appeal started, Peterson and his backers had simple goals: get the suspension reduced to as few games as possible; get the financial hit lessened as much as possible; and most important, get Peterson reinstated as quickly as possible because a suspension extending to April limits the market for Peterson's services.
If the running back had decided he wanted out – and that's still up in the air – having to wait until the midway point of the offseason allows teams to fulfill their needs at his position. It also allows them to take a longer look at Peterson without worry that another franchise will swoop in and steal him. And the kicker – it leaves a cliffhanger of sorts, since nobody knows if the league will reinstate Peterson in April.
What happens now? Maybe Peterson will file a lawsuit against the NFL. Maybe he'll stand pat and take his chances after April. Or maybe he'll decide he wants to be a Minnesota Viking in 2015, and work to resolve any lingering issues with the franchise and its faithful.
According to league sources, it's not that Peterson doesn't want to play for his coaches or teammates – quite the contrary. But the running back and his family are now questioning whether the state and city he plays in can still stand behind him, following an outpouring of fan and media negativity surrounding his personal life.
Once those emotions are resolved, if Peterson wants a trade he is going to push the issue and then wait a long four months, maybe longer. That gives the Vikings this upper hand: If they want to deal him, those conversations can be held now and consummated later.
But if Minnesota wants to keep Peterson, it can simply tell him no trade will happen, tune out other teams, and then let his options wither away until there is no compelling offer to be had when he's reinstated.
Either way, his future is in a tough spot now. Peterson's loss Friday was more than just lost games and lost wages. In a way, his career lost freedom going forward, too. And the ramifications of that could stretch far longer than April.