The Benchwarmer: The game must go on

Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings, played in a game just days after his 2-year-old son died.

On Friday, Oct. 11, one of the sons of Minnesota Vikings running back and reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson died after spending more than 24 hours in the hospital. The name of the son was not released.

The 2 year old was allegedly the victim of an attack by 27-year-old Joseph Patterson, who now faces assault charges, according to online sources.

According to reports, Peterson was not aware of his second son’s existence until a few weeks ago, and had only met the son for the first time in the hospital where he would would later die. The mother was unsure until recently who the father was, but following a paternity test, it was determined that Peterson was the father.

After visiting his son in the hospital, Peterson returned to the practice field, preparing for the game on Sunday, Oct. 13, against the Carolina Panthers. Many have criticized Peterson’s decision to practice and play when his son was dying.

However, in my opinion, Peterson made the right decision to play.

In a text message he sent to Fox Sports 1 reporter Laura Okmin, Peterson said, “My brother passed the night before the combine and I decided to go through with it. The same reason why I will play this week. You may ask why? God wants good to come from it … We mourn and grieve but heaven had the baddest welcoming party for my son. That knowledge gives me peace. I’m still hurt and feel the pain of life, but I’m able to function because of the peace and joy of knowing my loved ones are in a much better place.”

Peterson’s half-brother, Chris Paris, was killed the day before the NFL Combine in 2007. The Combine is a comprehensive workout for players entering the NFL draft with scouts from all 32 NFL teams present. Peterson ran a 4.400 second 40-yard dash and went on to be drafted by the Vikings seventh overall.

While Peterson has a history of playing through personal pain, he is not alone. There are numerous examples of players going out and playing their hearts out during tragedies.

Brett Favre, former quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, lost his father on Dec. 21, 2003. The next day, the Packers took on the Oakland Raiders in a Monday Night Football matchup. Favre played and had one of the most inspiring performances in NFL history. He threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a thrashing of the Raiders.

“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” Favre said to reporters after the game, “I love him so much, and I love this game. It’s meant a great deal to me, to my dad, to my family and I didn’t expect this kind of performance. But I know he was watching tonight.”

The fact of the matter is, playing their sport is how athletes channel their emotions.The pain, the hurt and the heartache that they feel become their motivation to go out there and do what they do best: play their game. While many may question why grieving athletes choose to compete, it quite simply is in an athlete’s nature. To compete. To fight. To win. Depriving an athlete of that inherent characteristic could do more harm than good when an athlete is grieving. If players want to play, they should be able to without criticism.

Peterson had 10 carries for 62 yards on Sunday. This was mostly because the Vikings were playing from behind the whole time in a 35-10 loss. But the fact that Peterson was able to put on his pads, lace up his cleats and walk onto the football field two days after his son — who he had only met once — died speaks volumes of his character. I have more respect for him today and hope that he and his family gets through what one can imagine is an extremely tough time.

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