The Vikings gave the rest of the league a mild surprise by taking running back Toby Gerhart with a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. Gerhart is now getting ready to repay the Vikings for their faith in him.
“I’m looking, going into the season, to have a big role,” Gerhart told Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com on Sunday.
“I don’t know how big it will be,” Gerhart said. “But I’m looking like I’m going to be the starter from Day One and have to be the starter all the way on through until Adrian is back and ready and full-speed. I’m excited about that. I’m ready to embrace that and go out and help this team win and really show people what I can do.”
Gerhart nevertheless realizes that, when the games count, he may not have the kind of opportunities he’d like to have.
“I think [Adrian Peterson] will [play in the opener],” Gerhart said. “You can never be surprised with Adrian. The way he comes to work every day, the way he pushes himself — he was flying around, straight-line speed, moving out there, racing Percy up the hill, doing conditioning stuff. . . . I haven’t seen him in a couple weeks now, but I’m sure he’s continued to make leaps and bounds in progress, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s ready. You can never count Adrian out.”
As Gerhart enters his third season, he says his body has been “transformed” and that he feels “stronger and quicker.”
In 2011, Gerhart started five games in place of Peterson, and the former Stanford tailback gained 531 yards rushing on 109 carries, for a 4.9-yard average.
Even if Peterson is able to play as of Week One against the Jaguars, the Vikings likely will bring Peterson along slowly, which means that Gerhart will likely get plenty of opportunities.
Who knows? Maybe the Vikings will use a committee approach to start the season. Maybe, if Gerhart can continue to average 4.9 yards per carry, they’ll use it for the entire season.