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Peterson may have played last game for Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It's not out of the question running back Adrian Peterson has played his last game for the Vikings. Peterson will have surgery Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and could be out the rest of the season. Mi...

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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) carries the ball and is injured on the play during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers Sept.18 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It’s not out of the question running back Adrian Peterson has played his last game for the Vikings.

Peterson will have surgery Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and could be out the rest of the season. Minnesota must make a call next March on the final year of Peterson’s contract, and his $18 million on the books for 2017 is not guaranteed.

Peterson was hurt in last Sunday’s 17-14 win over Green Bay. He told ESPN on Wednesday he has a “bucket handle tear,’’ and he said his surgery will repair the meniscus rather than trim out the damaged part.

“It could be season ending, it could be three or four weeks,’’ said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “I don’t know.’’

However, if it’s a repair Peterson has, he likely would be out at least three months.

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It’s yet another blow to Minnesota’s offense. Tackle Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and Zimmer said he will have hip surgery and is likely out for the season.

The Vikings lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the year with a knee injury suffered three weeks ago. At least he has been capably replaced by recently acquired Sam Bradford, who completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers in his Vikings debut.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us as far as key guys going down,’’ said defensive end Brian Robison. “But the thing that’s great about this team is we’re still hungry to get where we want to get.’’

Zimmer said Jerick McKinnon will replace Peterson and T.J. Clemmings will step in for Kalil on Sunday at Carolina. The Vikings also have at running back Matt Asiata, and on Wednesday they signed Ronnie Hillman, who last year ran for 863 yards for Denver.

Peterson was injured late in the third quarter in the first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Zimmer said more will be known after the doctor looks at Peterson’s knee during surgery on how long he will be out.

“It depends on how bad the meniscus is,’’ Zimmer said.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke to two orthopedic surgeons who are not treating Peterson and who have performed surgeries on pro athletes with meniscus tears. Dr. Derek Ochiai, of the Nirschl Orthopaedic Center in Arlington, Va., and Dr. Moira McCarthy of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, both said a “bucket handle tear’’ is more severe than a typical meniscus tear.

If Peterson, 31, has a repair, rather than a trim, Ochiai said he likely would be out three to four months. McCarthy, though, called that perhaps overly optimistic, saying a repair likely would sideline Peterson for six or more months.

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Minnesota’s regular season ends Jan. 1. The Vikings must make a call on his contract about two months after that.

If the Vikings don’t release Peterson by the third day of the league year in March, his $18 million becomes guaranteed for 2017. Few believe he will end up playing for that amount, and it remains to be seen if Peterson and Minnesota would be able to agree on a renegotiated deal after an injury-plagued season.

For now, Zimmer is confident of the Vikings (2-0) continuing to play well without Peterson.

“We’re not the type of team that’s going to sit back and cry about what’s happened,’’ he said. “I know everybody is all concerned about we don’t have this, we don’t have that. But this is a team game.’’

Peterson, a 10-year veteran, won his third NFL rushing title in 2015. He got off to a slow start this season, rushing for just 50 yards on 31 carries in two games.

“Obviously, it’s hard to replace a player like Adrian,’’ Bradford said. “He’s the best running back in the NFL. It’s just the next man up.”

Guard Alex Boone said Bradford having stepped in so well for Bridgewater gives the Vikings confidence they also can overcome the losses of Peterson and Kalil.

“It’s the NFL,’’ Boone said. “Bad things happen all the time. You just got to get over it and move on.’’

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Zimmer has experience playing without Peterson from his first Vikings season of 2014. With Peterson missing the final 15 games because of a child-abuse incident, McKinnon and Asiata replaced him.

“Hopefully we can play good defense and hopefully we can run the ball,’’ Zimmer said. “Take our shots when we get a chance. We’re not going to change and go to like five (receivers) every play.’’

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