By any stretch of the imagination, it was an extraordinary 36-hour stretch for the Minnesota Vikings as they and the NFL struggled to find their footing on the issue of what to do with a player accused of committing a violent act against another person.

Shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, the matter of what to do about Adrian Peterson took another twist as the Vikings, after activating the running back Monday, deactivated him, placing him on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list in a move that could sideline him the rest of the season.

But why did it take the Vikings so long to reverse itself and decide that Peterson, one of the very biggest stars in the NFL, should not play Sunday after his arrest over the weekend on a charge of recklessly or negligently injuring a child?

The team chose not to activate him for the game the day after his arrest, but clearly could come to no consensus on whether to deactivate under the personal-conduct policy over the long term as he awaits legal resolution of his case. With a 1-1 record, they know that every one of the remaining 14 games is critical and Peterson is their best player by far. On Monday, the team seemed to have worked the cold calculus and deduced that Peterson should be allowed to play Sunday in New Orleans.

Vikings owners, at that point, make a mistake. They dispatched General Manager Rick Spielman Monday to explain why, after deactivating Peterson for Sunday’s game, they were reversing field and activating him. The Wilfs may not be savvy at press events, but the result with Spielman was one of the worst press conference in recent sports history.

Spielman tried to use the argument, put forth by the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers and other teams, that players should play until their legal cases are resolved. But the accusation against Peterson, that he gave his 4-year-old son a spanking with a switch that left the child with cuts on his arms, legs and genitals, was something different. Nothing Spielman said went over very well and reporters, so used to being lapdogs when it comes to the NFL, suddenly are acting more like pitbulls. Spielman was grilled relentlessly as he stood before a backdrop of Vikings and Radisson logos.  Spielman admitted that photos of the child were disturbing but stressed the need for due process for Peterson. “This is a very important issue. I want to take time to emphasize that the issue of child welfare is extremely serious. We want to do the right thing,” Spielman said, before adding: “This is a difficult path to navigate regarding the judgment of how a parent disciplines his child.

“We feel strongly as an organization this is disciplining a child.”

By Tuesday, the Vikings’ problems were about to worsen.

Radisson, one of the team’s sponsors, and Mylan suspended their deals with the team as national sponsors, like Anheuser-Busch, were applying pressure to the NFL. And there were reports that Nike’s Twin Cities store was no longer selling Peterson’s jersey. The team and Catholic Charities canceled an event at St. Joseph’s Home for Children, which aids children affected by abuse and instability, and Peterson’s “All Day Foundation” went on hiatus.  Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken called for Peterson to be benched as negative headlines came one after the other Tuesday. The ground beneath the Vikings — and the NFL — was shifting so swiftly that both the team and the league were failing badly to keep up.

At 1:47 a.m., Vikings officials announced that they had changed their minds again. They spoke with league officials, they said, and were placing Peterson on the NFL’s exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which bars him from all team activities, until his child-abuse case is resolved. “After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian,” Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in the statement. “We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization.

“We embrace our role — and the responsibilities that go with it — as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.”

Executives worked late into the night and issued their statement, with the Wilfs nowhere to be seen.

“While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian,” the Vikings’ statement said. “We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community.

“Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well. We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision. We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision.”

Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, thought the decision was “the best possible outcome given the circumstances. However, unless there is a plea bargain or dismissal of the charge, this may well mean that Peterson doesn’t play until 2015. Peterson isn’t due in court for the first time until Oct. 8 (that falls between Weeks 5 and 6 on the NFL schedule).

“Adrian understands the gravity of the situation, and this enables him to take care of his personal situation,” Dogra said. “We fully support Adrian, and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence.”

On Tuesday, Peterson had asserted that “I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser” and, shortly after the pre-dawn announcement, he tweeted:

Here is the full statement, signed by the Wilfs:

This has been an ongoing and deliberate process since last Friday’s news. In conversations with the NFL over the last two days, the Vikings advised the League of the team’s decision to revisit the situation regarding Adrian Peterson. In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian.

We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization. We embrace our role – and the responsibilities that go with it – as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.

While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian. We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well.

We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision. We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision.