Troy Vincent said he visited Adrian Peterson at his Texas home, held one of his sons on his lap and offered guidance to open the door toward getting the former NFL MVP back on track and on the field after resolving child abuse charges.
But things spiraled out of control and now the NFL's executive vice president for football operations finds his interactions with the Minnesota Vikings star at the center of a legal dispute between the NFL Players Association, the league and Peterson after their backchannel, informal conversations became public.
Peterson and the union argued unsuccessfully during an arbitration hearing that Vincent promised the running back would be suspended two additional games beyond those he missed. The arbiter ruled no promises were made and Vincent says he was simply trying to give Peterson information so he could make smarter decisions.
"I visited Adrian, not from my position or title, but to talk about how he was doing, how his children were, whether he was getting the help he needed," Vincent told The Associated Press on Monday. "My Christian faith tells me that when I see someone in need and it's within my ability to reach out and lend a helping hand, I should do so. I felt like in speaking to Adrian, I might be able to help him get through this. I needed to touch him and look in his eyes and tell him we can get through this together."
Vincent, a former All-Pro cornerback and union president, said he sat down with Peterson at his home on Nov. 10, eight days before Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him without pay for the last six games of this season and through at least April 15.
Peterson pleaded no contest in Texas to misdemeanor reckless assault Nov. 4 for physically disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. Peterson received probation time, community service and a small fine as part of a deal that will remove the misdemeanor from his record if he completes the requirements without incident.
An arbiter upheld the suspension Friday. The NFLPA filed a federal lawsuit Monday for Peterson, asking the court to dismiss that ruling.
"We obviously filed a lawsuit because those conversations were explicitly inconsistent with the discipline," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told the AP. Peterson couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
In the petition, 10 of the 74 pages are devoted to recorded conversations between Vincent and Peterson. Vincent said those conversations occurred on Nov. 12 and he didn't know Peterson recorded them.
"I don't want to see this young man ruin his life," Vincent said. "I would never lead him down the wrong path."
Vincent, who told Peterson he wouldn't disclose their conversations without his permission, said he didn't tell anyone at the league office they were talking.
Based on transcripts of the phone call, which were used in Peterson's appeal and obtained by The Associated Press, Vincent and Peterson clearly had different motivations during their conversation.
Vincent tried to convince Peterson to come to New York on Nov. 14 to meet with Goodell and other league officials to discuss personal progress and expectations for moving forward.
Peterson repeatedly tried to firm up the length of his suspension, and tried to bargain it down.
"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."
Peterson has five children. Only one child, a son, lives with him.
Vincent said Peterson suggested a two-game suspension to him in their meeting at his house. In the transcripts, Vincent told Peterson he took Peterson's suggestion, upon permission from the player to reveal their discussions, to others in the NFL. He said they responded favorably and discussed meeting with Peterson to get things moving forward. Vincent also warned Peterson he could receive a longer suspension and gave examples, including Adam Jones, Tank Johnson and Donte Stallworth.
"Adrian had no clue what was going on," Vincent said. "He wasn't getting help from the people around him."
Peterson skipped that meeting with Goodell and the NFLPA claims the lengthy suspension he received was in "retaliation" for him not going. But arbiter Harold Henderson, in his ruling, dismissed the contention that Peterson was retaliated against for not meeting with Goodell.
Said Vincent: "My testimony was undisputed and there was no evidence presented to challenge it."
Vincent has no regrets about how everything went down.
"I cannot and will not regret reaching out to help someone, to guide them in prayer, and give them words of encouragement," Vincent said. "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."
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