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What is the NFL exempt/commissioner's permission list, and what does it mean for Adrian Peterson?

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The NFL enacted a little-used protocol to allow the Vikings to remove Adrian Peterson from their 53-man roster. What does the exempt/commisioner's permission list mean for the running back?

The Minnesota Vikings took advantage of a rarely-used NFL protocol Wednesday, placing Adrian Peterson on the exempt/commissioner's permission list while the running back goes through the legal process after being indicted for child abuse last week. The list, used to allow players who are dealing with significant off-field situations, will allow the Vikings to remove Peterson from their 53-man roster.

Peterson will be barred from all team activities in the meantime, which sounds like a suspension except that Peterson will be paid during his leave. The decision whether to pay the player falls on the team. Players placed on the exempt list can be held with or without pay at the team's discretion.

Players must consent before being placed on the list, allowing the NFL Players Association to call Peterson's placement a "voluntary leave with pay."

As the name of the list suggests, players can only be placed on the exempt/commissioner's permission list with clearance from Roger Goodell. From the NFL Player Personnel Policy Manual:

The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances. The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit. Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic. The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player's time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List.

As the policy states, players are also removed from the list at the commissioner's discretion. In Peterson's case, he is expected to remain on the list until a resolution has been reached in his child abuse case.

The exempt list allows teams to get around the maximum four-game suspension or deactivation allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement for conduct detrimental to the team. In Peterson's case, legal proceedings are expected to extend past the next month.

Notably, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy may also soon join Peterson on the exempt list. Hardy was convicted in July of assaulting and threatening an ex-girlfriend, but has appealed the decision. As the Vikings did with Peterson, the Panthers decided not to suspend Hardy as he goes through due process. The exempt list, again, would allow the team to get around the four-game maximum penalty for detrimental conduct.

The exempt/commissioner's permission list was used perhaps most notably in the past on Michael Vick when the quarterback finished serving his jail sentence and suspension in 2009 for his participation in a dogfighting ring. The list has been used in less dubious circumstances, however. For example, Jeff Demps was placed on the list in 2013 while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back was trying to make the U.S. Olympic track team.