As Adrian Peterson heads to surgery, Minnesota Vikings sign Ronnie Hillman

The Minnesota Vikings are sending Adrian Peterson to surgery and signed Ronnie Hillman for depth.

The fears that Adrian Peterson could be out for an extended period of time appear to be realized. Peterson will have surgery on Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, but the extent of the damage and his absence won’t be known until surgery.

“Everything is possible. It could be season-ending, it could be three weeks, four weeks. I don’t know,” Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday.

“We’ll find out during the surgery how bad it is, whatever the situation is.”

Peterson injured his right knee during the third quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers at the end of a run. He hopped off the field with assistance, putting no weight on his right knee and left the locker room following the game with a sleeve on his right leg and using crutches.

The Vikings said a determination has not been made on whether Peterson will have the meniscus trimmed or fully repaired. That will be determined once surgery begins.

In response, the Vikings signed former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, but Jerick McKinnon is expected to start on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

“I don’t know anything about (Hillman), other than he was signed today,” Zimmer said when asked if Hillman could eventually be the starter. “We played him last year, so I have no idea. It’s a little early to worry about that.

However, despite losing Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil (hip) this week, Zimmer said the identity of the Vikings offense won’t change as a run-first team.

“That’s our identity and that’s how we’re built and we’re going to continue to stay that way,” he said.

However, with QB Sam Bradford starting his first game for the Vikings on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings threw the ball 31 times and ran it 22 times.

While some teams might be able to plug-and-play a backup running back without much dropoff, Zimmer acknowledged the loss of Peterson could hurt more than most running backs.

“We’re not talking about just an average run-of-the-mill guy. To me, again, it’s all about the team and how the team plays out, how the quarterback throws the ball to get us in the right place, the protections, how the defense plays, special teams,” Zimmer said. “I know everybody’s concerned about we don’t have this or we don’t have that, but it’s a team game and that’s why we have 53 guys here. We try to win as a team, and that’s all I’ve ever done since I’ve been here.”

Even so, the Vikings struggled to run the ball with Peterson in the first two weeks. He rushed for 31 yards on 19 carries in the opener against the Tennessee Titans, then had 19 yards on 12 carries Sunday night before his third-quarter injury.

Last year, Hillman rushed for 823 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry for the Denver Broncos, including a 103-yard performance and a 72-yard touchdown against the Vikings. But with so much going on this week and trying to prepare for the Panthers, Zimmer didn’t have much time to look at what Hillman could offer the team.

“All the scouts looked at it,” he said. “I honestly didn’t have time to do a lot of running back evaluations yesterday.”

Peterson hasn’t been placed on injured reserve yet, but that could be a possibility. However, with the new rules on injured reserve, the Vikings could elect to bring back one player off injured reserve.


“This team … they’re resilient, they’re tough, they’re competitive,” Zimmer said. “Obviously we’ve had a few setbacks, but I think we can go back last year and think about some of the things that happened. We’re not the type of team that’s going to sit back and cry about what’s happened. We’re going to go forward, try, like I’ve said before, to find a way.”

That will start Sunday against the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers.

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