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The Sports Xchange, Published October 12 2013

Vikings' Peterson will play Sunday, asks for privacy after son's death

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, whose two-year old son died Friday following an alleged beating in Sioux Falls, S.D., said he will play Sunday against the visiting Carolina Panthers.

The child's death was first reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and confirmed by Reuters. After being away Thursday, Peterson returned to practice Friday, but did not directly address reports regarding his son.

"I really appreciate all the support that I've been receiving from fans, the Vikings organization," Peterson said. "This is a private matter and I would ask you all to please just respect my privacy and not ask at all about the situation at hand. Thanks. Appreciate it."

Football is something I will always fall back on," he said. "It gets me through tough times. Just being around the guys in here, that's what I need in my life, guys supporting me and just being able to go out and play this game I love. Things that I go through, I've said a thousand times, it helps me play this game to a different level. I'm able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that's what I plan on doing.

And he wanted to be very clear about Sunday's game.

"I plan on playing Sunday," he said. "I will be playing Sunday, let me correct that. Be ready to roll, focused and ready to get a 'W' on Sunday, being 1-0."

Peterson's father, Nelson Peterson, told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press earlier Friday that the child is one of Peterson's sons.

The Argus Leader reported that Peterson was spotted in Sioux Falls Thursday and that the health issue he was tending to was "very serious" and "likely will be a police matter." At that time, a Sioux Falls toddler was in critical condition with choking injuries after allegedly being assaulted by a man.

According to police, emergency responders arrived at the apartment where Peterson's son reportedly lives at 5:46 p.m. Wednesday and found the child unresponsive.

Joseph Robert Patterson, 27, was being held on bail set at $750,000 in cash at the Minnehaha County Jail. He was charged with aggravated assault and battery of an infant.

Police spokesman Sam Clemens told the Star-Tribune the state attorney's office is reviewing the case to consider additional charges against Patterson.

"We're surrounding our investigation around the injuries to this child," Clemens said. "Who the father is does not come into play in this investigation."

Police said the child was in Patterson's apartment, where the boy had recently moved with his mother. The child's mother recently began a relationship with Patterson.

Patterson has a prior domestic abuse record involving a different woman and child. He pleaded guilty to simple assault in an incident last year.

Peterson, who came back from ACL surgery late in 2011 to have one of the most remarkable seasons in NFL history in 2012. He became the sixth fastest player to reach 8,000 rushing yards, ending the season with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season mark and winning league MVP honors.

This year Peterson has carried 92 times for 421 yards and five touchdowns.

Peterson's 61-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 29 extended his NFL career mark of touchdown runs of at least 60 yards to 12. The previous mark was nine by Hall of Famer Jim Brown.

In one of the stranger mid-October NFL work days, the Vikings spent Wednesday preparing two quarterbacks to play this Sunday and one quarterback to maybe take the job from both of them as early as next week's Monday nighter against the Giants.

Matt Cassel, 1-0 and turnover-free this season, is expected to start ahead of Christian Ponder, 0-3 and still limited in practice as he heals from a fractured rib, on Sunday when the Vikings play the Panthers in a battle of 1-3 teams at Mall of America.

Coach Leslie Frazier, however, wouldn't confirm that logical assumption, saying he'd prefer to keep his options open.

"We'll talk more about it as the week goes on but we're not at a point, without watching the guys practice, where we can make a determination about who our starter is going to be," Frazier said. "We'll monitor that throughout the week and take a look at where the guys are."

Meanwhile, Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick in 2009, was added to the mix on Monday, just days after his ugly divorce from the Buccaneers. While the rest of the team is in mid-season mode, Freeman is taking the baby steps that new guys normally take in early March.

He doesn't know the terminology, the protection schemes, his responsibilities or the responsibilities of the other 10 guys on offense. Heck, he doesn't know most of his teammates' names, so he was asked to introduce himself at a team meeting on Wednesday.

"I just stood up and introduced myself to the team, told them where I was from," he said. "That's about it."

Later that day, Freeman ran some scout team plays and stayed after practice to work with the young second- and third-stringers. Obviously, that's not why he was brought in. He was brought in to play, to throw that strong deep ball of his and give the Vikings a taste of whether he, not Ponder, can be the team's long-term answer at quarterback.

Frazier isn't putting a timetable on when Freeman will be able to play. But assume that it will be sooner than later. How much of the offense he'll be able to execute remains to be seen.

"I don't think he'll be able to digest our entire offense with the time that we have (this season)," Frazier said. "We'll have to alter some things to get him on the field. We won't be able to throw our entire playbook at him, but we can get that done. To put a timetable on it, it's hard to say today, with this being his first real action with us. We'll see how it goes."

As for who starts Sunday, Frazier's friend, former Bears teammate and Panthers coach Ron Rivera isn't buying his buddy's gamesmanship. Asked if he's preparing for Cassel to start, Rivera said, "Yes, we are. We most certainly are."

Meanwhile, anything can happen at quarterback beyond Sunday's game. Cassel could play well enough to keep the job. Ponder could be given another chance to provide an answer to the Freeman signing. Or Freeman could get his shot.

Cassel seemed to be taking it all in stride when asked if it was one of the stranger days he's seen in the NFL.

"I've been through some crazy, strange things throughout my career," he said. "I don't know if you want to categorize it or define it as strange as much as it is this is the NFL and there's always something interesting going on."