The Minnesota Vikings are off to a great start, sitting at 3-0 and claiming victories over the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers already. Unfortunately, they’re also dealing with the uncertainty of if star running back Adrian Peterson will play again in 2016.
The 31-year-old tore his meniscus in Week 2 and underwent surgery to repair it. ProFootballTalk reports that Peterson’s surgery was a success and there was no further damage.
“Adrian Peterson had a successful lateral meniscus repair this morning,” the Vikings reported. “The surgery was performed by team physician Chris Larson at Twin Cities Orthopedics. There were no additional injuries or issues noted in or surrounding the knee joint during the surgical procedure. The rehabilitation process will begin immediately.”
This is much better than what ESPN originally reported, in that Peterson also had a torn lateral collateral ligament (LCL) too. But rehabbing from the torn meniscus and surgery won’t be much easier.
Will Peterson Play Again in 2016?
USA Today reports that Peterson thinks he can play when he’s eligible fo come off injured reserve in Week 11. He’s healed from injuries in the past at a superhuman rate, so it’s not completely impossible for the 7-time Pro Bowler to make it back.
However, as USA Today points out, there are concerns within the organization that he won’t play football until 2017:
However, that timeline is considered optimistic, and there remains doubt about whether Peterson will return at all this season as he begins his recovery from Thursday’s right knee surgery, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.
It’ll be at least a month before doctors have a better idea of whether an expedited return is possible for Peterson, the seven-time Pro Bowl running back who opted for a repair of his lateral meniscus — a procedure that can take three to six months to return from — rather than a trim that could’ve had him back on the field in two or three weeks.
Peterson, who believes that he can play well into his mid-30s, opted not to do the trim over fears about his long-term career. Plus, he has complete faith in himself to return from meniscus surgery faster than any normal human.
One instance when Peterson defied logic with his recovery was after he tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in December 2011. This type of multi-damage in one’s knee has the potential to sideline them for over a year.
Nevertheless, Peterson was ready to go at the start of the 2012 campaign, tallying 2,097 rushing yards and earning the NFL MVP award that season.
But that was four years ago, and Peterson has put on more wear and tear since then. So the odds of him making another superhuman recovery are slimmer given that he’s in his 30s.
Assuming Peterson does rehab quickly enough for a 2016 return, the Vikings could take advantage of a new rule that allows teams to bring back one player from IR without designating them in advance. They can start practicing within 6 weeks, and play within 8 weeks of being put on IR.
If by some miracle Peterson can play in Week 11, he could suit up for Minnesota’s home contest against the Arizona Cardinals. Just four days after that, they play the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Peterson’s last chance to play in the regular season would be January 1 against the Chicago Bears.
Who Will Replace Peterson?
Before injuring his knee in the third quarter of last week’s victory over the Green Bay Packers, Peterson wasn’t off to a very good start. Poor run blocking contributed to just 31 yards on 50 carries, an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
That said, the odds of somebody stepping in and doing as well as last year’s leading rusher are slim. But third-year pro Jerick McKinnon and fifth-year pro Matt Asiata will do their best to fill the void.
McKinnon has 53 yards on 19 carries (2.8 avg), while Asiata hasn’t fared any better with 42 yards on 16 carries (2.6 avg). Both will need to provide more to keep the pressure off Sam Bradford and the passing game.
What’s Peterson’s Future in Minnesota?
Minnesota can choose to pick up Peterson’s $18 million option for 2017, which includes a $6 million roster bonus at the beginning of the season. But given that he’s been injured in two out of the last three seasons, it’s unlikely that the Vikings would give him this much money.
The only way that Peterson could hope to make his $18 million next season is by returning in 2016 and helping the Vikings go deep in the postseason.
With the way that Minnesota has played in their first three contests, it’s not totally unfathomable that they could make a solid playoff run without Peterson. But their chances are much better if he’s able to take the field.