By Nick Shook
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Minnesota has tried to patch a large hole in its running game with various stopgaps over the course of the regular season.
It might get the permanent fix in time for Week 16.
Adrian Peterson intends to return to practice this week and plans to play against the Packers in Week 16, he said Monday during a 15-minute interview with DJ Skee on dashradio.com, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“This week is going to be big for me,” Peterson said. “My plan, and my vision, is to be back for the Green Bay game. That’s what I’m envisioning.
Peterson added: “My eyes are still set on being in Houston for the Super Bowl. … That’s been my vision. With us still in the (playoff) hunt, that hasn’t changed at all.”
Peterson suffered a torn meniscus in Week 2, hopping off the field and through the U.S. Bank Stadium tunnel in a shot that graced television screens countless times in the days that followed. It looked like Minnesota’s promising season — already undercut once by the loss of Teddy Bridgewater — had sustained a devastating setback, over before the season really got going.
One would be remiss to not consider Peterson’s past medical triumphs, though. Peterson once defied expectations, overcoming a torn ACL to start in Week 1, nine months after surgery, and rush for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. A torn meniscus is not considered to be nearly as serious as an ACL injury, so there was still room for hope, as long as Minnesota could find a way to win without him.
The Vikings did just that, starting the season 5-0 before coming back to earth as a result of an offense challenged from the inside out. Minnesota has struggled significantly to block effectively in the run or the pass, opening little run lanes if at all for Peterson’s replacements, and forcing Sam Bradford to throw under nearly constant pressure.
Since losing Peterson in Week 2, the Vikings have turned to the likes of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon for the majority of the workload, plus the five-game cameo made by Ronnie Hillman. The three have combined for 760 rushing yards on 254 carries for an abysmal average under three yards per carry.
Now, with the NFC North quickly slipping away and a playoff picture that is only tougher to fit into with each week, Minnesota needs its star running back more than ever. Peterson’s return might not make much of a difference, though, because even with the All Pro and future Hall of Fame running back, the Vikings were ineffective at best on the ground and wholly inept at their worst.
Peterson immediately creates another problem for which defenses must account, but don’t expect the running back, fresh off of rehabbing his knee in less than four months, to rip off a 200-yard game and turn the Vikings into an offensive power.