NFL running back Adrian Peterson avoids jail time on abuse charges after plea deal
Defense attorney Rusty Hardin (L) and NFL running back Adrian Peterson of the of the Minnesota Vikings address the media on Nov. 4, 2014 in Conroe, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey for Agence France-Presse.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will avoid jail time after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors on Tuesday in the child abuse case against him.

Peterson, 29, was facing felony charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child after he was accused of whipping his four-year-old son with a tree branch.

The NFL star could have faced up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine if he were convicted of the felony charge.

Instead, he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault and Texas judge Kelly Case said during a scheduled pre-trial hearing the deal had been approved.

Peterson was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

"I truly regret this incident," said Peterson outside the Montgomery County courthouse after the agreement was reached.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than any one of you can image.

"I am anxious to continue my relationship with my child. I am glad this over ... so me and my family can move forward."

Peterson has been on the NFL commissioner's exempt list since he was indicted, barred from taking part in Vikings team activities but still drawing his salary.

The Vikings benched Peterson over the incident for their second game of the season against New England, but reinstated him days later only to face a backlash from fans and sponsors and even Minnesota politicians before placing him on the special exempt list until the matter could be resolved.

Peterson's case came on the heels of the league's much-criticized handling of Baltimore running back Ray Rice, who was belatedly suspended indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell after video surfaced of Rice punching his future wife in a casino elevator.

Public attention on the high profile cases has prompted the league to promise to toughen its stance on domestic violence.

- No timetable for NFL return -

It was not immediately clear if Peterson will face further sanctions from the Vikings or the league in the wake of the plea deal, or whether he might quickly be reinstated and able to play.

"We will review the matter and make a determination," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a written statement. "We cannot provide a timetable."

As reports of the plea deal circulated early Tuesday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was cautious in discussing Peterson's possible return to the team this season.

"We'll keep all of our comments under the Adrian situation until it's appropriate to speak," Spielman said. "And I'll just leave it at that."

But support for Peterson was high in the team locker room.

"We all know the kind of person he is, and we've stood behind him this whole time," said tight end Kyle Rudolph. "Anytime you can have a veteran back in that locker room, the leader that he is in the locker room, out on the practice field would be huge for us."

Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who got the starting nod as the team was reeling from the charges against Peterson, said he thought the longtime star would be welcomed back by his team-mates.

"I've only spent such a short period of time with Adrian, but as far as the other players have told me, he's nothing but a great guy. If he does come back, I'm pretty sure everyone will still take him in."