We're moving through the NFC North, doing worst case "what-if" scenarios and panicking the populace—now it is time to spook Vikings fans.
We've all been following the torrid pace of Adrian Peterson's rehab from two torn ligaments in his knee. In a word, his efforts are ridiculous.
I mean that in the best way possible.
If there is one concern in NFL and media circles with his efforts, it's that he may be pushing too hard to come back quickly. That if he is pushing himself too hard, he might re-injure the knee and miss a large portion of 2012, if not all of it.
What would the team do if they he injured the knee again?
Well, the answer to that depends largely on the nature of the injury, so let's break it down that way.
This is where he completely tears the same ligaments, tears ligaments in the other knee or tears both ligaments AND a bonus third Daunte Culpepper style.
Or as one commenter in another piece put it—"the Metrodome roof falls on his knee."
In other words, bad things happen to a pretty good guy.
If you need a minute to compose yourself, take it.
I don't expect this to happen, nor am I wishing it. It's a real possibility, but not one which I would give a high percentage of happening.
That said, it could, so let's examine.
That sort of injury for a second time could spell the end of his career. At the very least, it would degrade his ability quite a bit. I'll buy that he won't lose much burst and speed right now after one injury of this magnitude.
I can't buy it with a second.
Which leaves the Vikings with both the long term question or what next?
We'd very quickly find out what Toby Gerhart is made of and whether they can rely on him beyond 2012 as a bell cow back.
Gerhart has shown ability, and nobody would expect him to have Peterson's production. The question is whether he would be enough to keep defenses honest and off Percy Harvin or Christian Ponder.
I really liked Gerhart coming out of college, though I was more lukewarm last season. He's shown enough to where there shouldn't be panic if he has the ball.
What might concern people is the lack of real depth behind Gerhart. Lex Hilliard is OK, while Jordan Todman is decidedly average. Neither of those two are long-term replacements or even compliments tto Gerhart.
More than likely, the Vikings would need to look to the NFL draft, though Gerhart is good enough to keep them from having to blow a high pick on a running back, unless someone very special (like Trent Richardson this season) was there.
A complimentary back would be good—someone who could show a little lightning with Gerhart's thunder.
Even in this harsh, horrific possibility, there could be a return of Adrian Peterson, but I would guess that he would have to split carries with Gerhart and wouldn't be the Peterson we know and love (or if you cheer for the Bears, Lions and Packers—loathe).
Eventually, they would still need another back.
Season Ender/Long Layoff
This is the sort of thing which will make your heart catch in your throat but ultimately won't kill Peterson or the team. He goes down for the season with a bad, but not horrible injury to the knee, or misses a stretch because he strains or pulls something in it.
Even just a middle of the road knee injury could make the team shut him down. This isn't a Super Bowl team—Peterson would want to play, but there is no point in the team risking him.
Short-term is the only impact here. Again, Gerhart gets a shot to prove once and for all he can be the man. I still feel less good about Hilliard and Todman, so I would imagine the team looking at available free-agent running backs.
Will Ryan Grant or Cedric Benson be around still? (Not if our earlier "What If Matt Forte Skips the Season" happens) Who else might be available?
It won't be worth a big trade because, again, this is no Super Bowl contender. So they'd need a solid, bargain back to come in, just in case.
Pretty much just hold the fort until 2013 and the return of Peterson.
Nagging Injury Alert
This is the scenario where AP rushes back a little too soon, and while he plays well, something is clearly off.
Of all these possibilities, this is the one most likely. I'd also say it's the toughest for the team to manage.
Peterson will play through pain and injury. The team will be able to use him.
But do you risk worse happening by letting him on the field?
As I said, he's prone to want to do anything to get on the field. If he does it, will he just make his injury worse? For what? Playing spoiler?
The team will have to balance how much they let him expose himself to that risk and to what end. More than likely, they will limit his carries—if it gets bad enough, shut him down for a week here or there and try to use him when the season heads to a conclusion and they can punk Detroit, Chicago or Green Bay.
Even that is risky, and with every snap on sore wheels, the possibility of this turning into one of the first two types of injury grows.
As with everything to do with Peterson, the team will have the difficulty of balancing his desire to play—what makes him the great player he is—with the risk he might hurt himself worse.