Chip Scoggins: Gerhart showing he's more than ready to handle the load

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2012 - 11:54 AM

Even if Adrian Peterson returns on schedule, the Vikings have a solid No. 2 in Toby Gerhart.

hide

Third-year pro Toby Gerhart, right, is preparing as if he will start but knows that Adrian Peterson will work his way back in the lineup.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Dml - Carlos Gonzalez Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Toby Gerhart's upper body looks as if it has been inflated with air. Barrel-chested with thick arms and shoulders, he looks as if he swallowed a keg.

"I've been the same weight since my senior year in high school," he said.

Come on. No way. He's never resembled a toothpick, but this is not how he looked last season.

"I think last year my weight was 233," he said. "This year they bumped my weight to 235."

That's it? Two measly pounds?

Weight gain or not, Gerhart sported a different appearance when he arrived for Vikings training camp. He transformed his body this offseason while maintaining his target weight, hoping the ripped muscle look would enable him to withstand more punishment as a featured running back in case Adrian Peterson's recovery from knee surgery hit a snag or unexpected delay.

Peterson's rehab remains on track and the Vikings intend to ramp up his workload in practice this week, but the team plans to hold him out the final two preseason games.

The Vikings continue to express cautious optimism with Peterson's timetable, careful to let the process play out, even as Peterson pushes the envelope to get back on the field. Peterson, of course, wants it to happen yesterday. He wants to feel the sensation of smashing into a defender, hitting a hole, getting tackled to the ground. He's ready to test his reconstructed knee to see how well it holds up.

The Vikings, however, must view his comeback and his career through a longer lens. They need him long-term, not only for Week 1. They won't do anything to jeopardize his future, or the $36 million in guaranteed money they invested in their franchise back.

Besides, they have a solid insurance policy in Gerhart, who is talented enough to be an NFL starter and has shown enough improvement to warrant a more prominent role in this offense, even with Peterson in the lineup.

We're not suggesting a 50-50 split or anything like that. Peterson is a special talent, and the guess here is that he will return to his normal self, or close to what he was pre-surgery, once he knocks some rust off.

But the Vikings certainly can and should lighten his workload, based on Gerhart's development at the end of 2011 and so far this preseason. Assuming Peterson returns for the season opener, it makes sense to have him and Gerhart share carries for a few games or however long it takes until Peterson feels strong enough to handle more. No need to rush things unnecessarily.

"With Adrian, all signs are point toward him being back and ready," Gerhart said. "At the same time, I don't know how big my role is going to be, but I'm going to be prepared to be the guy and be the starter."

Gerhart has rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries in the first two preseason games. He also had some nice moments in relief of Peterson last season. He has come a long way from his first training camp two years ago when veterans went out of their way to pound on the rookie, even in non-contact drills.

"I just feel much more confident and relaxed," he said, adding that a better understanding of the offensive system enables him to be more "instinctual."

His running style is pretty straightforward, literally. He's a true power back who relies on brawn more than speed. He's a load to bring down once he gets up to speed or in a rhythm. He becomes stronger the more carries he gets, but that's difficult in a backup role.

"Early on last year, I would get one in the first quarter, one in the third quarter," he said. "It's hard to get a feel for the game. When you get a couple back-to-back, that's when I'm at my best. I think that's any running back. You like to get a little sweat going."

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Gerhart is more assertive and "quicker to hit the hole" this season. That's largely a product of him having a full offseason and more familiarity with the scheme. But Gerhart also credits his offseason conditioning work, which included yoga in order to become more flexible.

"Tried to loosen up my hips a little bit so I'm not as stiff," he said.

Gerhart laughed at that thought. He knows he's always going to be more of a road grader than race car.

"I'm not going to be as fast as Adrian," he said. "This is what I was given."

His style works too. Hopefully, we'll get to see more of it. There should be plenty of room for him even when Peterson gets the green light.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Cleveland 0
San Francisco 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 Top 2nd Inning
Philadelphia 1
Chicago WSox 3 Top 2nd Inning
NY Yankees 0
Tampa Bay 1 Top 3rd Inning
Toronto 0
Atlanta 0 Top 2nd Inning
Cincinnati 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Boston 0
Kansas City - Y. Ventura 7:05 PM
Texas - C. Lewis
Pittsburgh - J. Locke 7:10 PM
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo
Detroit - R. Ray 7:10 PM
Minnesota - T. Milone
Miami - H. Alvarez 7:40 PM
Colorado - F. Morales
San Diego - O. Despaigne 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
LA Angels - H. Santiago 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
NY Mets - J. Niese 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Carolina 0 1st Qtr 14:24
New England 0
NY Giants 0 1st Qtr 15:00
NY Jets 0
Jacksonville 0 1st Qtr 15:00
Detroit 0
Oakland 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Chicago 9:00 PM
Seattle
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 8:00 PM
FC Dallas
Montreal 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 0 1st Qtr 9:31
Atlanta 0
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who would you rather have on your team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close