EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Jerick McKinnon doesn't have any butterflies about Sunday's game.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that McKinnon is likely to start in place of Adrian Peterson, who **underwent surgery today** for a torn meniscus on Thursday.
"We're well prepared," McKinnon said. "Two years ago, me and Matt [Asiata] were in the same type of situation.
"We're going to go out there and give it all we can and just hope for the best," McKinnon added.
When the Vikings played nearly all of 2014 without Peterson, McKinnon started six of the 11 games he played before suffering a back injury. Asiata, now in his fifth season, started nine games in 2014. During McKinnon's campaign, he led the team with an average of 4.8 yards per carry and posted two 100-yard games. Despite playing only 11 games, McKinnon ranked third in the NFC in rushing yards by a rookie and eighth in the NFL with 538.
Since that time, McKinnon patiently played behind Peterson, viewing it as an opportunity that not many players receive.
"You want to play, being on the team and being a competitor and stuff like that, but I look at the good sides of things," McKinnon said. "Learning from Adrian, one of the greatest to ever do it. I just look at it as a way to get better every day and learn something new."
Now, he's getting that chance to play.
McKinnon said he feels confident in his ability to step up again, this time even more so with two-plus seasons under his belt.
"Going into my third year, everything's not new to me," McKinnon said. "I know what it takes to be a successful back in this league."
It's not only self confidence that surrounds McKinnon. The running back's teammates have expressed **full confidence in both him and Asiata** as they take the reins from Peterson. Wide receiver Charles Johnson said he recognizes that defenses may respond to Minnesota's run game differently with its starter sidelined, but that doesn't change the team's trust in the next man up.
"If they don't want to focus on our running backs that are coming in, all right, we'll hand it off to those guys and let them go do what they do," Johnson said. "Don't focus on Jerick McKinnon – let him spring one on you. That's fine with us."
McKinnon said he views their running back room as a committee.
"Whether it's me, Matt, or whoever's in the game, we feed off each other throughout the week," McKinnon said. "Training camp, preseason, all building up to this point. So we're confident that whoever's in there will do the right thing and make plays for us."
Heading into Carolina, McKinnon said he's expecting Sunday's game against the defending NFC Champions to be a gritty one.
"We're just looking for different ways, just find a way to win the games – that's what it's all about," McKinnon said. "It's not always going to look pretty, but as long as you can come out on top, you can live with it."
He later added: "They have good athletes at every level – the secondary, the linebacker corps is really tough, and the d-line is really sturdy. We know it's going to be a hard-fought game for four quarters."
After hearing of Peterson's successful surgery, McKinnon said he's hoping for the Superman-type comeback he's come to expect from his friend and teammate. Until then, however, he's prepared, confident and ready to roll.
"Like [running backs coach Kevin] Stefanski said, we have to hold down the fort until he comes back," McKinnon said. "That whole group of running backs, we have to find a way to still make it work and find a way to pick up where he left off."