The 2-year-old son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson died late Friday of injuries suffered during an alleged beating, according to Sioux Falls, South Dakota police.
Joseph Patterson, the boyfriend of the child’s mother, was charged with aggravated assault of an infant and aggravated battery.
Despite the tragedy, Peterson will play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
“I appreciate the support that I’ve received from all the fans and the Vikings organization,” he said in a statement. “You know, this is a private matter and I ask that y’all please respect my privacy and not ask at all about the situation at hand. “I will be playing Sunday.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the decision to play was Peterson’s alone. One of the NFL’s top running backs, Peterson is no stranger to the grief that comes along with tragedy. At 7, he saw his brother die after being hit by a drunk driver, and his half-brother was shot and killed shortly before the Vikings made him the seventh pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. While it may be unthinkable to some that he could play just days after a tragedy like the death of his infant son, Peterson said football will help him cope.
“You know, football is something I will always fall back on,” he said, according to ESPN. “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.”
On Twitter, Peterson thanked the numerous athletes and entertainers who reached out to him. “Thank you to my family, my fans and fans of other teams for their support,” he said. “The NFL is a fraternity of brothers and I am thankful for the tweets, phone calls and text messages from my fellow players.”