Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended without pay for at least the rest of the season and will not be eligible for reinstatement before April 15, the NFL announced Tuesday in a move that drew immediate criticism from the NFL Players Association.

Commissioner Roger Goodell notified Peterson by letter that he was being suspended for violating the personal conduct policy after pleading no contest to a charge of reckless assault earlier this month in Texas. He had been arrested for spanking his 4-year-old son with a switch, inflicting scratches and welts on the child’s arms, legs and genitals.

“The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision,” Goodell wrote. “Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement.  You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”

Goodell went on to warn Peterson that any further violations of the personal conduct policy could result in his being banned from the league.

Peterson can appeal the suspension within three business days under the collective bargaining agreement. He has not played since his arrest on the second weekend of the NFL season; he had been on the commissioner’s exempt list, essentially on paid leave, while waiting for his case to be adjudicated. His plea was entered and accepted Nov. 4 and, with that resolved, the league began to consider his status under the personal-conduct policy. It acted Tuesday, a day after a grievance hearing over the matter before the NFL’s arbitrator. Peterson and the NFL Players Association contend that his status on the exempt list was his punishment; the NFL believes that because he was paid, he has not been punished. Arbitrator Shyam Das has five days in which to issue a ruling.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, criticized what he believes is an inconsistent approach to discipline by Goodell.

“The process that the NFL has employed since the beginning of the season has been arbitrary, inconsistent, uneven and inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” Smith said in an interview on “Mike & Mike.” “You get the feeling over the last few months that the National Football League has simply been making it up as they go along. That’s something that is not in the best interests of the game, certainly not in the best interests of the players, and I know not in the best interests of our sponsors.”

The NFL, clearly, did not want to see Peterson on a football field for the rest of this season, a feeling the Vikings most likely endorsed. Goodell, whose handling of disciplinary matters involving domestic violence has been questioned since the league’s scandal and the Peterson case erupted in September, was back in full commissioner mode, writing to Peterson:

“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse – to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement – none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.
“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.
“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

The players’ union and the NFL were at odds over the handling of the Peterson case and the case may get uglier before it is resolved. On Friday, the NFL accused Peterson of skipping a meeting to discuss his status; Peterson replied through the union on Sunday, saying that the league was ignoring the CBA. On Tuesday morning, the NFLPA accused the league of having a “credibility gap” between agreements and actions. In addition, it dropped a bombshell by saying that an unnamed league executive had said that Peterson would receive credit for “time served” while his criminal case was pending.

The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take. Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.
The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served.
The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal.
We call on the NFL Management Council to show our players and our sponsors leadership by committing to collective bargaining so a fair personal conduct policy can be implemented as quickly as possible.

Smith went on to say that players have lost confidence in Goodell.

“There is a growing gap between the players and the league office, and that shouldn’t be,” he said.