The Vikings scored an important early season victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night but likely lost their star running back for a chunk of time.
Adrian Peterson tore the meniscus in his right knee during the second half of Sunday night’s 17-14 win at U.S. Bank Stadium and did not return to the game. Coach Mike Zimmer on Monday afternoon refused to rule out Peterson for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, which suggests that the 31-year-old’s injury will not end his season.
Peterson will get a second opinion on his knee before the player and the team huddles up to discuss his options, which include surgery. Until that happens, Zimmer said he did not want to disclose a timetable for when Peterson might return.
“We’re going through the evaluation process to try to figure out what the next procedure will be, the options that we have,” Zimmer said.
Peterson was injured at the end of a 5-yard run in the third quarter. He was spun down to the ground by Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell and quickly climbed back to his feet. He immediately grabbed his lower right leg, though, and sat back down on the turf when he was unable to keep weight on his leg.
The Vikings wanted to cart Peterson to the locker room but he refused. Instead, a pair of team employees helped him hop to the trainer’s table on the sideline and then, after he got checked out by the athletic training staff, through the swanky Delta Sky360 Club at U.S. Bank Stadium and into the Vikings locker room.
Peterson did not return to the game and was later spotted on crutches.
Injury experts have speculated that Peterson could be sidelined anywhere from two weeks to three months, depending on whether he needs surgery and whether that procedure would be to trim the meniscus or reconstruct it. But there is a chance that Peterson could play with the injury if he can handle the pain.
This is not the same knee Peterson injured late in the 2011 season. That was the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he tore before nearly setting the NFL’s single-season rushing record in 2012 and being named league MVP.
If Peterson does miss time because of his current knee injury, the Vikings are expected to use a committee approach. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata would split snaps like they did in 2014, when Peterson played only one game after the NFL banned him following child abuse charges he faced in Texas.
As a team, the Vikings ranked 11th in the league in yards per carry that season and 14th in rushing yards overall. McKinnon, who averaged 4.8 yards as a rookie, had settled into the lead back role when a back injury ended his season. Asiata, meanwhile, was among the league leaders in rushing touchdowns with nine.
“The next man has got to step up and the coaches have trust in Jerick and I to fill in for Adrian, and we are going to do that,” Asiata said.
McKinnon likely would be the lead back again, playing at least 60 percent of the snaps. But Asiata would get carries, too, and probably handle goal-line duties. Both have had a role on passing downs this season while backing up Peterson, with McKinnon running routes and Asiata being trusted in pass protection.
The Vikings, who have three running backs on their 53-man roster, could also promote Duluth native C.J. Ham from the practice squad.
“We’ll just try to find a way to win, just like we always do,” Zimmer said.
So far this season, the Vikings found a way to win both of their games despite Peterson getting off to the least productive start of his career. He had only 50 rushing yards on 31 carries in his first two games and his 1.6 yards-per-carry average was the lowest for any player with at least 30 rushes since 1970 NFL/AFL merger, according to ESPN.
With the new-look offensive line again struggling to open up holes Sunday night, McKinnon and Asiata didn’t fare that much better against the Packers. They combined for 16 yards on eight carries, and 12 of those yards came on one Asiata run.
“They got after us up front, I thought,” Zimmer said. “So we’ve got to get better.”
Still, despite their early-season run-game issues, losing Peterson, the reigning rushing champ, for an extended period of time would be a significant blow for the Vikings, who are already without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“Everybody on offense, we all have to pick our game up,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “It’s the same thing as when Teddy went down. Everyone’s got to get a little bit better, do one thing better each and every day, and we’ll be all right.”