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Adrian Peterson’s career with the Vikings looked like it might have ended when he tore his meniscus in the second game of the season against the Packers. He had surgery two months ago, right after the injury, but even then, the prospects of return in 2016 looked bleak. Minimum recovery time from a “bucket handle tear” is between three and four months.

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But as ESPN reported today, Peterson could be on the near end of that bell curve and may be back next month. Peterson did have his best career season in 2012 after he tore both his ACL and MCL the previous December, so he’s not new to quick recoveries. He is reportedly trying to return for Minnesota’s Dec. 18 game against the Colts of the Dec. 24 game against the Packers:

Peterson had an exam late last week and could start running this week. Although the three-time rushing champion is said to be exercising caution in his return from the knee injury he sustained on Sept. 18 against the Green Bay Packers, he could make his return before the end of the regular season.

Minnesota is currently 6-4, tied with the Lions for the NFC North lead. FiveThirtyEight gives the Vikings a slight edge, but the race is very even. The Vikings have the fewest yards-per-rush of any team in the NFL by a wide margin, and their rushing offense is the the team’s clear weak link. Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon have been unable to do much of anything, and Peterson is one of the best rushers of his generation, even if he’s banged up. Crucially, he’d also keep Sam Bradford from getting his bones crushed by opposing pass rushes who’ve feasted on the Vikings’ sickly offensive line.