The Vikings' 3-13 record is prompting the possibility of many changes, from coaching staff to players. We review the possibilities and look at 10 of the top injuries to consider as the rest and rehab begins.
Whether they turn things around remains to be seen, but the Vikings definitely will look different in 2012. Expect heavy turnover in personnel, some new defensive assistants, including coordinator, and possibly a tweak or abandonment of the Tampa-2 defensive scheme.
Aging veterans such as middle linebacker E.J. Henderson
and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe
will leave via free agency. Left guard Steve Hutchinson
will mull retirement after ending the season with a concussion and facing the possibility of a pay cut in the final year of his contract.
Coach Leslie Frazier has been evaluating his coaching staff, but defensive coordinator Fred Pagac isn't expected to survive what was one of the worst defensive seasons in franchise history, despite Jared Allen
notching a franchise-record 22 of the team's league-high 50 sacks. With Pagac's expected departure would come a tough decision by Frazier, who favors the 4-3 defense but might promote his friend and former Bears teammate Mike Singletary, a 3-4 proponent, from linebackers coach to coordinator.
Current defenders such as Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams
and cornerback Antoine Winfield
are against changing from the 4-3 scheme, but Frazier has not completely ruled it out.
Meanwhile, offensively, Frazier still believes that coordinator Bill Musgrave is right to be building a run-oriented, ball-control offense around Adrian Peterson
. The team is expecting Peterson to return for the start of the 2012 regular season after having surgery on Dec. 30 to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee.
The team's weakest link is its secondary, so expect major turnover there in 2012. The team won't factor cornerback Chris Cook
into its plans until his felony domestic assault charges are resolved in his favor. His trial is scheduled to start March 5. Also, the team is expected to release struggling cornerback Cedric Griffin
, a starter who couldn't return to form after tearing the ACL in both knees the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, cornerback Antoine Winfield, who will be 35 next season, will be counted on. But safeties Husain Abdullah
and Jamarca Sanford
could be gone. Abdullah is a free agent and is contemplating retirement after suffering four concussions in two seasons. And Sanford is under contract, but just might not be good enough to be a starter.
With so many holes to fill, don't look for the Vikings to jump back into the quarterback market despite rookie Christian Ponder
's struggles in 2011. The Vikings aren't going to give up on him after 10 starts with an inadequate supporting cast.
RB Adrian Peterson had surgery on Dec. 30 to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. Peterson has historically been a fast healer, but obviously there is great concern about his future. The Vikings said they're hopeful that Peterson can return in time for the start of the 2012 regular season.
RB Toby Gerhart injured the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the season finale on Sunday. It's not expected to be a long-term injury. He'll be monitored for two to three weeks to determine whether he'll need surgery.
LG Steve Hutchinson ended the season on injured reserve because of a concussion. He'll be 35 next season and is due to make $6.95 million. The concussion, coupled with the likelihood that he'll have to take a pay cut to stay with the team, clouds his future with the team and in the NFL.
FS Husain Abdullah, who missed the final seven games of the season because of two concussions, said he's contemplating leaving the game. He said he's had four concussions the past two years and wants to collect more information on his potential risks before deciding what to do in 2012. Abdullah, 26, is an unrestricted free agent.
QB Christian Ponder left the season finale after re-injuring the right hip pointer that he originally hurt on Dec. 4. It's not expected to be a long-term issue. He's staying in Minnesota this offseason, so he'll rehab the hip while working with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to put a rough rookie season behind him.
CB Antoine Winfield, who missed 11 games because of neck and clavicle injuries, said there's no reason to believe he can't return to top form in 2012. He'll be 35 next year, but says he'll be OK because his injuries this season weren't to his legs.
SS Tyrell Johnson had surgery a month ago to repair a detached hamstring. Heading into unrestricted free agency this offseason, Johnson said he'll be 100 percent in five months.
WR Michael Jenkins missed the final five games because of a knee injury, but will be fine for 2012.
LS Cullen Loeffler, who missed the final five games because of a bone fracture in his lower back, will be able to participate as soon as offseason activities begin.
LB Jasper Brinkley, who missed the entire season because of hip surgery, is expected to return for the start of next season and is the favorite to replace starter E.J. Henderson, who is an unrestricted free agent.