Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who has been outspoken about his Christian faith, has been indicted on a charge of injury to his son, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, the sheriff's office confirmed with USA Today.
Houston's CBS television affiliate reported that the beating - punishment for pushing the other kid off a motorcycle video game - left cuts and marks on the 4-year-old boy's back, buttocks, legs and scrotum.
Peterson's attorney, Rustin Hardin, issued a statement saying the charge involves the use of a "switch," a tree branch stripped of the leaves, to spank Peterson's son.
"Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas," he said.
According to police reported obtain by CBS, Peterson claimed the switch wrapped around the boy's leg, leaving the cuts and bruises. He also admitted to pulling the boy's pants down before hitting him.
The boy and his brother were visiting Peterson in Houston, and when the child returned home to his mother in Minnesota, she took her son to a previously scheduled doctor's appointment, where she was informed that the marks on his body amounted to child abuse, the CBS Houston's Sports 610 Radio reported. Minnesota law enforcement notified Houston-area authorities, who contacted Peterson.
"Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours," Hardin said in a statement. "Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury."
Despite media reports from other outlets, local child welfare and law enforcement authorities deny confirming details about Peterson's alleged abuse, according to Houston Chronicles.
Child Protective Services spokeswoman Gwen Carter said her agency had not received any court documents by late Friday, so could not confirm whether they were investigating a case involving Peterson or release any information.
"The only time we can talk about a case - a child death, a serious injury - is if there are court proceedings with a court order or affidavit where it's addressed in court," she said late Friday.
Pictures of red welts on a person's body that were purportedly injuries Peterson's son sustained were not released by the Houston Police Department, as reported by a Minneapolis television station, said HPD spokesman John Cannon.
The six-time Pro-Bowler, 29, who has rushed for 10,190 yards and scored 86 touchdowns during his eight-year career with the Vikings.
Despite his success, Peterson lost another son in October when the 2-year-old child died after sustaining blows to the head by the hands of the boyfriend of the boy's mother.
The Christian NFL player is all too familiar with tragedies. His older brother Brian died in a bicycle accident after he was struck by a drunk driver when Peterson was 7. At 13, his dad Nelson was sent to prison for money-laundering from drug profits and spent eight years there. In 2007, the night before the NFL Combine, Peterson's half-brother Chris Paris was shot and killed in Houston, but Peterson still participated in the combine.
"I'm still hurt and feel the pain of life, but I'm able to function because of the peace and joy of knowing my loved ones are in a much better place," he said.
Since the tragic event, Peterson has married his longtime fiancée, Ashley Brown, and told USA Today Sports in June the events from last year made him tighten his inner circle.
"I look at adversity to not keep me down long," he said then. "We are human, so we do go through pain and we struggle with things, but it's all about how your respond to a situation.
"My whole life, I've been responding in a positive way and keeping a positive mind, keeping God first in my heart, in my mind. No matter what wrong I've done, I know who sees the heart."