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Updated: December 24th, 2011 9:38pm
Pelissero: Torn ACL, MCL have Adrian Peterson in doubt for 2012 opener

Pelissero: Torn ACL, MCL have Adrian Peterson in doubt for 2012 opener

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by Tom Pelissero

LANDOVER, Md. -- If only a shot at the No. 1 pick was the only thing the Minnesota Vikings lost on Saturday.

A resilient 33-26 road win against the Washington Redskins paled against the grim reality the Vikings' best player might not be ready when the 2012 season begins -- and there's at least a chance he won't be quite the same ever again.

An NFL source said late Saturday night that an MRI confirmed All-Pro halfback Adrian Peterson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament when his left knee caved sideways on a direct hit from Redskins safety DeJon Gomes early in the third quarter.

Surgery to replace the ACL probably won't occur for at least a couple of weeks while Peterson regains his range of motion and the MCL heals. (Peterson's posterior cruciate ligament was not damaged, a source said. The lateral collateral ligament also is believed to be OK. The meniscus will be evaluated in the operating room and might need repair as well.)

An optimistic timetable would have Peterson returning to action no sooner than September. And recent research suggests even an athlete of Peterson's caliber may struggle to return to his previous performance level, especially one who relies so heavily on lower-body explosion.

"It kind of took me awhile to come back, because I knew he was seriously hurt, by the grimace and his pain," receiver Percy Harvin said. "I seen his leg," which was twisted awkwardly behind Peterson as his other leg twitched and the Vikings' medical staff raced to his side.

By no means is Peterson's career over at age 26. He has proven to be a fast healer and is so competitive he may try to defy the minimum eight- to nine-month recovery timetable many NFL teams endorse.

But losing the offense's focal point like this -- in a mostly meaningless game, six days after he returned on a limited basis from a high ankle sprain -- was a gut punch in a locker room that already was eager to flip the page to 2012.

"I had to say a prayer as soon as I seen his leg twisted," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "Ugh. You don't want to lose a guy of that caliber, period, let alone at the end of the season. I pray that his rehab and his recovery is speedy and efficient, effective and we'll see what happens."

To the Vikings' credit, they didn't just keep fighting after Peterson's injury. They scored on their next three possessions behind backups Toby Gerhart and Joe Webb, who took over at quarterback after Christian Ponder's concussion on the same series.

The Redskins scored twice in a row, too, and would have made it three if a questionable holding penalty on fullback Darrel Young hadn't wiped out Brandon Banks' 59-yard touchdown run and set up Mistral Raymond's interception on the next play.

"If we were sitting here scared, I would beg you to call me a (expletive) after the game," Shiancoe said. "(Expletive) that. We're not (expletives). We're not in the NFL for no reason."

The win ended a six-game losing skid. It ended speculation about what the Vikings (3-12) would do with a No. 1 pick that now is destined for Indianapolis or St. Louis.

It also revived questions about Webb getting a shot at the starting quarterback job -- a still-unlikely scenario to which coach Leslie Frazier lent some credence by saying "it's something we're going to take a real hard look at as we go forward."

The biggest question raised on this day was about Peterson, though, and just how long it will take one of the NFL's premier talents to get back on the field after the most significant injury of his career.

One league source speculated Peterson could spend the first six weeks of next season on the physically unable to perform list, if for no reason other than to replace a major investment.

"You take a blow to the knee like that, you're concerned about the ACL and the MCL -- those ligaments mainly," Peterson said, balancing on crutches in the locker room hours before an MRI confirmed the damage. "I don't know. Just trying to stay as positive as I can."

Jamal Lewis ran for 2,000 yards two years after blowing out a knee in 2001, but he was five years younger than Peterson then. Edgerrin James had five 1,000-yard seasons after his ACL injury in 2001, but it took him several years to get back to normal.

The Vikings surely know the list of running backs who never regained top form -- Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson, Olandis Gary, Deuce McAllister, Dominic Rhodes and Kevin Smith, to name a few -- is a distinguished one.

Of course, some of those guys lost their jobs to younger players who took advantage in their absence. And none of them were injured only 3½ months after signing seven-year, $100 million contract extensions that included $36 million in guarantees.

Frazier praised the Vikings ability to bounce back from both last weekend's blowout loss to New Orleans and Peterson's injury on Saturday, saying "it's something that I think we can build on. We've got to add some pieces to our team to do certain things, but I think the foundation is laid."

What they lost on Saturday is the cornerstone to that foundation, and only time will tell if Peterson can play the same role the Vikings envisioned in their rebuilding operation.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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