EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Two months ago, around the time the Minnesota Vikings were losing their second preseason game, Adrian Peterson was given some surprising news.
The star running back says he found out then he had a 2-year-old son living in Sioux Falls, S.D., named Tyrese Robert Ruffin. He had been working with Tyrese’s mother to arrange a meeting with the boy when he received a call last week that the child was in the hospital with severe injuries.
Peterson raced to South Dakota last Thursday, where he saw little Tyrese for the first time. The boy died a day later in an alleged case of child abuse, and Peterson has been trying to come to grips with it ever since.
Peterson attended Tyrese’s funeral Wednesday and returned to Minnesota for practice on Thursday. His voice wavered when he discussed Tyrese publicly for the first time, trying to grapple with mourning the death of a son he never got to know.
“I was planning on seeing him. I had a talk with his mom and we got some things together as far as financially helping her,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, this situation took place. It’s devastating.”
A man the boy’s mother was dating, 27-year-old Joseph Patterson, is being held on charges of aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Tyrese died after Patterson was arrested, and prosecutors plan to convene a grand jury to consider more serious charges.
“It was a difficult day, just taking in the circumstance and the whole situation,” Peterson said of the funeral. “A child was buried. That’s difficult for anyone.”
Peterson played against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, rushing for 62 yards on 10 carries in a 35-10 loss, and he plans to play against the New York Giants on Monday night. It’s been a theme for Peterson for nearly his entire life — football has been a refuge in difficult times ever since he was a youth.
“A lot of people won’t ever understand the situation that I’m in and see it the way I’m seeing the situation,” he said. “It’s tough, but I’m able to deal with that and got a good supporting cast around me that’s been supporting me through this tough time.”
Peterson thanked his teammates and the Vikings organization for their support.
“They’ve been great, organization, teammates, they’ve been supporting me as well,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten and texts from the guys up top in the organization and players just making sure that I’m OK and I’m doing well.”
He has always prided himself on finding the positivity even in the darkest of times – and now he finds himself searching again.
“I’m standing strong, man. I am,” Peterson said. “My main focus has been on my son and their family down there in Sioux Falls. Just trying to wrap my head around things and trying to stay focused and play ball as well. So things have been tough, but I can handle a lot. I’m built for anything that comes my way. This right here will pass.”
Peterson said he has been in touch with authorities in South Dakota to stay on top of the proceedings and didn’t expect to miss any more time this season to deal with the situation.
“I have the contacts that I need to be able to stay involved as far as the investigation,” he said.