Apparently, we humans have something called a lateral collateral ligament. Back when Dr. Seuss was a practicing orthopedic specialist, it seems he was allowed to name a few things.
Adrian Peterson's lateral collateral ligament is torn. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "(Athletic trainer Eric) Sugarman said an MRI exam Monday showed significant trauma to the LCL, but it wasn't clear whether the ligament was fully torn. On a scale of one to three, with three being the most serious, medical officials graded Peterson's injury a 'two-plus.' "
The great thing about that grading scale is that it corresponds nicely with the number of games an injured player can expect to miss.
So far, the Vikings have only specifically addressed Week 11. Peterson will be sidelined against Oakland, an opponent that seemed like an excellent candidate to allow his third 200-yard rushing effort of the season. It's difficult to imagine him returning in Week 12, when Minnesota travels to New York to face the Giants. You really can't expect Peterson to take the field again until he's made significant progress.
"We're not going to put him out there until he can protect himself," Brad Childress said on Monday.
When asked if the injury was a season-ender, Childress replied, "I am told it is not, no." Asked if surgery was needed, he said, "No, that is something that scars down and cleans up itself."
Peterson is the highest-scoring running back in Yahoo! standard scoring leagues, so this is likely to be the most important injury we'll deal with all year. Based strictly on Childress' comments, you'd have to say that the injury isn't too severe. But click on that link in the first paragraph. It's not like the LCL is a purely decorative ligament.
The LCL connects fibula to femur along the outside of the knee, providing stability. This fact has recently become common knowledge in the fantasy community. If the 3-6 Vikings allow their 22-year-old franchise running back to return before he's substantially recovered, that would have to be considered a greater act of negligence than waiting until Week 8 to declare him the starter.
The bottom line is that you can't rely on Peterson to carry you into the fantasy playoffs. If you're in a keeper league, of course, this is the time to make trade offers for him. We've been given no reason to think that Peterson will be affected by the injury in 2008.
Below, you'll find the names of four running backs who began the week unowned in at least two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues. None of them can adequately replace Peterson's projected contributions this season, but they can help to some extent. If you can limp into the playoffs with one of these guys, and then get Peterson back for the final weeks, you should be pleased.
• Selvin Young, Broncos (33.3 percent owned)
The best hope for Travis Henry now appears to be an appeal directly to the NFL on Friday. He'll apparently challenge drug-testing procedures that were collectively bargained. Anything can happen, but this much is certain: the Broncos can run successfully without him.
Young carried 20 times for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs in Week 10. The Broncos face a tough matchup with Tennessee on Monday night. The Titans allow only 3.5 yards per carry and 77.1 per game. But in Weeks 12-15, three of Denver's four opponents allow at least 4.5 yards per rush. And the fourth opponent is Kansas City.
Until you hear that the NFL has vindicated Henry and agreed to amend its substance abuse policy, Young should be universally owned. In competitive leagues, he already is.
• Chester Taylor, Vikings (19 percent owned)
Taylor is the obvious add for Peterson owners right now, and he may have the best Week 11 matchup. The Raiders allow 144.2 rushing yards per game. However, the Vikings' opponents in Weeks 12 and 13 both allow fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground. The Minnesota offensive line is terrific, and Taylor hasn't been ineffective this season. He's averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 13.3 per reception.
• Ryan Grant, Packers (19.0 percent owned)
It's safe to say that no one expected Grant to so thoroughly own the Minnesota run defense. He's an undrafted player from a 1-9 college football team, after all. But Grant carried 25 times for 119 yards and a touchdown in Week 10. If he can do that against a defense that allows only 3.0 yards per carry, he can be effective against pretty much anyone.
The Packers have a nice end-of-season schedule for fantasy purposes. In Weeks 14-17, they'll host Oakland, then travel to St. Louis and Chicago, then host Detroit.
• Maurice Morris, Seahawks (3.7 percent owned)
Those 87 yards on 28 carries on Monday night were not exactly inspiring. Morris did score a touchdown, though. That's something he failed to do while filling in for Shaun Alexander in 2006. If Alexander's medley of injuries forces him to miss additional games, Morris could get the Bears and Rams all to himself in Weeks 11 and 12. Those teams allow 128.9 and 120.2 rushing yards per game. Even if Alexander returns to torture his owners in Week 11, expect Morris to get double-digit touches.
Adequately replacing Peterson won't be easy. In fact, it might not be possible. But making a transaction is always more satisfying than simply hoping your injured player's ligament heals quickly.
By the way, yes, I realize that basically all of the running backs I made strong cases for in the pre-season – Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Travis Henry and Peterson – are now injured, facing suspension, or both. In certain cultures, when fantasy experts fail so spectacularly, they are publicly caned. Or they're expected to quietly disappear and meet some ritualistic end. Here, we just send taunting feedback.