MINNEAPOLIS (TNS) -- Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is being suspended by the NFL without pay for the rest of the season in connection with him whipping his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, the league announced this morning.

The league said Peterson violated its Personal Conduct Policy "in an incident of abusive discipline" in May at his home in Texas.

Peterson will be reconsidered for reinstatement on April 15, the league added.

In a letter to the MVP running back, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision. Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions.

"We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy."

Under the league's contract with the union, Peterson has three days to appeal the suspension, which would lead to a prompt hearing. An appeal would also keep Peterson on the commissioner's Exempt List, where Peterson has been for most of the season. He's been receiving his 2014 salary.

In his letter to Peterson, Goodell identified several "aggravating circumstances" for suspending Peterson:

"First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only 4 years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child."

Goodell also pointed out that adults can often choose to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement." However, the commissioner, continued, "none of those options is realistically available to a 4-year-old child."

He went on to call what Peterson did to his son "emotional and psychological trauma" that came in the form of "criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father."

The tree branch that Peterson used to strike his son was termed by Goodell as "the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.