The NFL is currently in Arizona for their annual meeting, and all eyes are on the home team, and their imminently quotable head coach Bruce Arians, especially while his team remain one of the teams most frequently linked to disgruntled Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. When asked directly about the situation during a recent media session, his answer was simple “That’s tampering, dude.” But is there more to his silence than meets the eye? We take a look.
Bruce Arians’ club has been linked with a trade for enigmatic, and disgruntled running back Adrian Peterson for most of the off season, and media wasted no time broaching the subject with Arians during a recent media availability session.
His response, in usual Arians style, was both honest, and hilarious. “That’s tampering, dude,” Arians said. “I can’t talk about another player. I ain’t saying jack about Adrian Peterson. I’d get fined for that.”
However, in many ways, his silence speaks volumes.
Tampering is an NFL rule which prevents coaches from attempting to reach out to players, or their representatives, either publicly or privately, directly or indirectly. Arians is correct—were he to have answered that he would love to sign Peterson, that would indeed be evidence of tampering. However, denying his teams interest doesn’t seem to fall foul of the current NFL rules.
Head coaches regularly deny knowledge, or interest in players their teams have been linked to, and tampering charges for players under contract are usually only filed if a trade actually goes through.
Reading between the lines, therefore, based on Arians response, it is safe to assume that reports of the Cardinals interest in Peterson are not entirely unfounded.
The level of interest, of course, is impossible to gauge, and Arians is notorious for offering misleading and deceptive information in interviews. For example, prior to the 2014 draft, Arians was unusually disparaging towards the quarterback class, and flat out denied having any interest in any of them, only for the team to draft Logan Thomas with their fourth round pick.
Perhaps Arians is just covering his back rather than risking a fine from an overly zealous interpretation of the rule, perhaps he just decided that he would offer another of his trademark humorous response rather than a boring denial, but in all likelihood, Arians knows that there is a possibility of the Cardinals making a play for Peterson, and he genuinely wants to avoid tampering with the process.
For the Vikings, who do not need to worry about tampering, head Mike Zimmer was emphatic, in insisting that the team currently intend to keep Peterson on their roster.
“I’m not going to speculate on what he wants or doesn’t want,” Zimmer said. “Adrian’s under contract for three more years with us, and that’s why you sign those contracts. That’s why you get these big bonuses, you know?”
Later, he explicitly stated “We have no plans to trade Adrian.”
Of course, Peterson has insisted, through his agent, that he doesn’t view the Vikings as his best option going forward, and, whatever Zimmer may say, few teams would want a player, even one as prodigious as Peterson, poisoning their locker-room if they really don’t want to be there, so we continue to view these sorts of statements as more of the “If you want him, he isn’t going to come cheap” variety.
If this is the case, expect the Cardinals to make a serious play for Peterson as early as the end April, which Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted is still the timeline for Peterson’s return to active duty, regardless of whether he is suspended or just on the exempt list.