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Vikings may not be bluffing on Peterson

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY - NOVEMBER 24: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up on the sideline prior to an NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, November 24, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Heat turbulence from a nearby heater causes background distortions. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

Tom Dahlin

As the rhetoric has increased in recent days from Adrian Peterson’s camp, the Vikings have continued to calmly point out that Peterson remains under contract with the team.

Some regard the official stance from the team as a we-have-no-intent-to-trade-Percy-Harvin strategy for building trade value, or at a minimum as a way to ensure that Peterson eventually gets the brunt of the blame if/when there’s a divorce. But in spending a full day (and night) at the league meetings and talking to folks in position to know what’s really happening, I’m starting to get the sense that, when the Vikings say Adrian Peterson is under contract, the only intended message is that Adrian Peterson is under contract.

Which is a nice way of saying, “He plays for us or he plays for no one.”

When Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, told multiple reporters last week that Peterson won’t be released, the goal undoubtedly was to ensure that anyone inclined to try to trade for Peterson would show up for the league meetings in Phoenix ready to talk turkey. When Dogra said Monday that it’s not in Peterson’s best interests to play for the Vikings, Dogra may have been taking one last shot at conjuring a market that simply isn’t there.

It’s one thing to assume Peterson’s contract, which pays him $13 million this year. It’s another to give the Vikings the kind of compensation that makes the trade sensible from their perspective. More than a quarter century after getting the very short end of the Herschel Walker trade, the Vikings surely have no interest in bookending that with getting snookered for Peterson.

So unless someone steps up with a willingness to pay top-of-market money to a 30-year-old tailback who has yet to be reinstated after pleading no contest to spanking his four-year-old son with a switch until the boy bled and a desire to give the Vikings trade compensation that reflects the player’s value, the choice necessarily becomes play for the Vikings at $13 million this year or play for no one -- and return $2.4 million in signing bonus money remaining from his 2011 contract.