(Photo: Reuters/Tom Lynn)
The 2-year-old son of Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back, has died Friday afternoon in a South Dakota hospital after suffering horrendous injuries from an aggravated assault by Joseph Robert Patterson, the boyfriend of the boy's mother.
News broke earlier on Friday that Peterson's son had been hospitalized in critical condition following the shocking beating. The NFL player missed training with his team on Thursday to attend to what was only described as "a private matter."
The RB returned to his team's training camp on Friday where he said, "I should start off by saying I really appreciate all the support that I've been receiving from fans, the Vikings organization."
He went on to ask that his privacy be respected, and he also confirmed that he planned to play in the Vikings' game on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
He told the media: "You know, football is something I will always fall back on. 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."
Peterson's teammates have rallied around their star player by offering messages of support and prayers.
Jared Allen, Vikings' defensive end, expressed that he was praying for Peterson, and reassured that "God has a plan." He told Pioneer Press, "Being a father is the most precious part of your life. You have to be there to support him. That's all it is, and I don't know what that entails, whether it's being a necessary distraction, or there to lend a comforting arm, hand, word, whatever it is.
He added, "Everyone has different ways of going through things, so you give them their space, and if they reach out, you're there to do whatever they need. Too much emphasis gets put on football. We're all human beings, we all have real-life problems, and tragedy can strike anybody. I know Adrian is a man of faith, and God has a plan. All we can do is pray for him and lend a shoulder, a word or whatever it is. "
Tight end Kyle Rudolph also reported that all the team had been offering their support to Peterson, and were praying for him.
"We do everything we can to be there for Adrian," said Rudolph. "I know a lot of guys contacted him yesterday via text message or whatever, just to let him know that, 'Hey, we're here for you if you need anything. You're in our prayers, your family is in our prayers',"
He added, "We understand that Adrian is going through a lot. As teammates, while we're here at the facility, we can be there for him and try to make things as normal as possible."
NBA star, LeBron James also took to social media to tweet a message of support to Peterson: "My deepest condolences goes out to Adrian Peterson and his family! Sending prayers up for you homie! Nothing I can say can help u through.."
Earlier on Friday, the victim's grandfather, Nelson Peterson, told Pioneer Press, "All I can say is, we are asking for prayers and for respect for our family as we deal with this tragic situation."
Police are not releasing the boy's name out of respect for the family, but the boy's grandfather has confirmed that the victim was not Adrian Jr., however, he did confirm that the boy was another of his grandsons.
It has emerged that the man who carried out the horrific assault and killing of the 2-year-old, Joseph Robert Patterson, 27, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault and battery of an infant, according to Lincoln County Attorney Thomas Wollman.
Patterson made his first court appearance on Friday and was held on a $750,000 cash bond.
Authorities have confirmed that a 911 call was placed by the boyfriend of the victim's mother just before 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Patterson initially reported that a choking had occurred, however, once medics assessed the boy in the hospital it quickly became clear that the injuries sustained were not by accident and were consistent with physical abuse.
Sioux Falls police spokesman Sam Clemens said that the relationship between Patterson and the boy's mother was "fairly new," and he confirmed that the boy was left alone with Patterson in an apartment complex at the time of assault.
In light of the boy's death, Lincoln County State Attorney's office will review the case for additional charges, according to a statement from the Sioux Falls police department.
Peterson, one of the most successful players in the NFL over recent seasons, is well-known for his Christian faith, which he has credited for helping him through the loss of his brother as a child.
"Jesus Christ – He means the world to me. So many different situations I've been through, through my childhood and now my adulthood; I lost my brother at a young age. He got hit by a car right in front of me. I had to be strong for my mom. (I) held my tears and held her and comforted her during that time," Peterson said in a previous interview with "The 700 Club." "God just helped me get through that and made me stronger at a young age."
Peterson said that God had been a faithful presence in his life, no matter the circumstances.
"(Through) all the adversity and the hard times I've been through, God has always been present. I've always prayed to Him and asked Him to give me the strength to endure and to help others and to better understand the situation, or whatever situation I deal with in my personal life. And He has always showed up!"