By now, most Dallas Cowboys fans have either heard about or read the recent ESPN The Magazine profile of Jerry Jones. Our own Tom Ryle will be addressing the overall profile in a few hours right here at BTB. But there is one section that has plenty of people opining that the Dallas Cowboys are guilty of tampering. The specifics revolve around a phone call Jerry Jones took that eventually ended up with Adrian Peterson on the other end of the line. The Vikings RB reportedly told Jones he'd like to finish his career in Dallas and Jones said something about trying to make that happen. Her are the precise quotes from the story:
Jones says hi to the Minnesota Vikings' star running back and listens, nodding but not smiling. "Well, I understand, Adrian," he says into the phone. The slanted smile returns. "I'd like that, too. ... Well, I love your story. I love your daddy's story. I've always respected what you've been about. I've always been a fan of yours."
Listening to half the conversation, it is obvious Peterson is telling Jones he wants to play for the Cowboys. Peterson, 29, is in the fourth year of a seven-year, $100 million contract that will pay him $11.75 million this autumn to play for the Vikings.
"Well, we'll see what we can do, if we can make that happen," Jones is now saying. "Hmm-hmm. ... I'd like that, too. ... Well, we're talking pig Latin here, but let's see if we can do that." Jones listens, nods and says again, "We're talking pig Latin here, but let's see what we can do about that. OK, Adrian, thanks."
So how does that rise to the level of tampering? Well, the technical part of the NFL rules say that Jones was responsible for calling the Vikings and reporting the conversation. But ESPN also provides a similar example that the NFL did not construe as tampering.
So in the meantime, the main question before us is this: Does a casual conversation between a high-profile player and an opposing team official, expressing mutual admiration and general talk about the possibility of working together at a future date, constitute tampering? NFL rules say if a team is contacted by a player under contract with another club, "the contacted club must immediately report such contact to the owner or operating head of the club which holds the player's rights." Jones told Van Natta he did not contact the Vikings, has not talked with Peterson since the call and did not consider the exchange to constitute tampering.
A precedent established six years ago might support his point. Back then, of course, the Green Bay Packers filed tampering charges against the Vikings for former coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's contact with Brett Favre while the quarterback -- then retired, but still under contract -- was weighing his options during the summer of 2008. Favre eventually decided to play, was traded to the New York Jets and wound up with the Vikings a year later, but the NFL dismissed the Packers' tampering claim on the grounds that neither Favre nor the Vikings were soliciting one another. Were the Vikings to file tampering charges against the Cowboys, they might have a stronger case to make because of Jones' on-the-record confirmations that Peterson expressed interest in playing for the Cowboys and the owner did not report the conversation to the Vikings. But as far as we know, it's not as though Peterson told Jones to trade for him this season, or Jones promised Peterson a job if he should ever leave Minnesota.
I can see the technical violation here, but really, if this is what tampering is in the NFL today, then they probably could have a handful of cases every season. You could find casual conversations like this happening all the time. So while certain parts of the media might be calling for penalties, I can't imagine the NFL would step in on this. It's not like Peterson is a free-agent anytime soon, the Vikings control his rights through 2017. And it's not like Peterson hasn't said he'd have interest in playing in Dallas before, in fact, he's said it publicly.
If Roger Goodell has any sense, this will be much ado about nothing.
Stay tuned for Tom's take on the whole article and Jerry Jones shortly.