The Minnesota Vikings are having a tough week. Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson might be done for the season, with knee surgery on his torn meniscus scheduled for today. Starting left tackle Matt Kalil is heading to the IR, a hip injury ending his year after two weeks. Add that to Teddy Bridgewater’s multi-ligament knee injury — and a Vikings team that has Super Bowl aspirations needs to do it with a new starter at QB, RB and LT.
But don’t expect it to effect head coach Mike Zimmer. Because it was business as usual for Zimm this week, with Minnesota traveling to Carolina for a big matchup among two of the top teams in the NFC.
“I feel like we have to go back to work and go play Carolina [on Sunday],” Zimmer said. “I expect [the players] to perform the way I always expect them to perform.”
While Zimmer doesn’t want to talk about it, the implications of these injuries are pretty staggering. Peterson might have played his last game in a Vikings uniform. The same for Kalil. And after being the face of the franchise since he was drafted out of Oklahoma before the 2007 season, it’s decision making time for the Vikings with their Hall of Fame tailback.
AP’s 2017 cap number is a whopping 18 million dollars — an extraordinary amount of money to be paying a back, and especially one that will be 32 next year, coming off another knee injury. And the Vikings don’t have to pay it. And probably won’t. They can walk away from it if they make a move before June 1st, something that’s hard to see NOT happening at this point.
And Kalil is almost certainly done in Minnesota. The left tackle is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed as the No. 4 overall pick, a draft spot he hasn’t played up to.
Usually when a team is gutted in the first three weeks of the season, you hear the head coach walk out there to the microphone and put on a brave face — saying all the right things when he loses key players like AP and Kalil.
But honestly, I don’t think Zimm is sweating it.
It’s not like those three guys were the ones who made Aaron Rodgers’ Sunday night miserable. It’s not like Peterson had been Peterson this year — averaging 1.6 yards per carry on his 31 touches this season. And Kalil has been a turnstile the past few years as well, nearly cut loose after last season — PFF ranked him their 65th best offensive tackle, hardly better than his replacement candidate.
This Vikings team isn’t built around Peterson like virtually every other one he’s been on. This team is around a defense. So if these injuries were to Anthony Barr or Harrison Smith, you might see Zimm blink. Until then, it’s business as usual.
Because we saw the blueprint for how Minnesota was going to win football games last weekend — with that nasty defense unchained and a just good-enough offensive attack — which Sam Bradford certainly provided.
I get it. And I’m sure that’s what Zimmer is telling himself. We go all in on defense and do just enough to get by offensively, and we can do this thing. Denver is, why not us? Maybe. Just don’t think that losing your Hall of Fame running back and starting left tackle, even if neither were anywhere near what they used to be, is anything other than a bad blow. It’s not as easy as just next man upping for your Hall of Fame back and Left Tackle. I’m not saying they should give up on the season: I’m saying don’t act like this is nothing at all and that they won’t miss these guys. Because they will.
And unless Peterson can beat the doctor’s expectations with this knee — and I’m certainly not saying that he can’t — it looks like our final memory of the Hall of Fame back in a Vikings uniform could be limping through the Delta Club on his way to the training room.
I get that this guy is super human; and he’s been written off before and come back with a vengeance and dominated: that anyone who threw dirt on him before, looked really bad. But…while, it seems like dude is made of titanium, he’s not. He’s human, and he’s 31 and there’s no way he comes back from this latest injury as good as he was before; in fact even before this latest injury, he wasn’t what he was previously… This guy is freaky enough, and recovers quickly enough that he could play again. But if he does, he’ll be a shadow of himself and it almost assuredly won’t be in Minnesota.