Wildly varying fortunes: Peterson and his running mates

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2013 - 3:27 PM

One Viking (Jerome Felton) found his niche thanks to Adrian Peterson, while another (Toby Gerhart) has to take whatever work he can get.

The topic isn’t one the NFL’s MVP considers often. So for a moment, Adrian Peterson nods and gives it deeper thought.

Jerome Felton, Toby Gerhart. Their paths to this point.

Tortuous. Complex. Often frustrating.

Just what is it really like to be Adrian Peterson’s fullback? His back-up?

Peterson, the seventh pick of the 2007 draft, the former Rookie of the Year, the five-time Pro Bowler with the $96 million contract and his eyes set on chasing down a 2,500-yard season can’t help but shake his head.

“I do think about it sometimes,” Peterson says. “No matter how good of a player you are, sometimes you get stuck and you just have to deal with your situation and keep pushing until that opportunity comes.”

But when will it come, if at all?

After four seasons of frustration with three teams, Jerome Felton almost quit, tiring of bouncing around and having the year-round investments pay so few dividends. In chasing opportunity, he felt like a snorkeler trying to corral a school of minnows with his bare hands. Then he landed in Minnesota in 2012, partnered with Peterson and became an instant Pro Bowler.

Now Felton owns a three-year, $7.5 million contract.

Gerhart? He’s been around Peterson — or more exactly behind the star back — since being drafted in 2010. Upward mobility isn’t exactly a perk on the Vikings’ depth chart. So Gerhart’s path toward excellence remains stonewalled.

He enters the final year of his rookie contract with no promises for his football future.

“I feel like I can be a starting back and a premier back in this league,” he says. “We’ll see if I get that opportunity.”

Beneath the surface of Peterson’s 2012 MVP brilliance was a fascinating reminder about football’s random twists of fate. One star’s talent provided Felton his golden opportunity. For Gerhart, it’s been an electric fence.

“This league can be cruel,” Peterson admits.

Buried under the wait

Felton’s first carry last season didn’t come during the preseason, the regular season or even during a lopsided playoff loss in Green Bay. Twenty-one games passed. Felton played more than 400 snaps — and took zero handoffs.

His first carry as a Viking, it turns out, came Jan. 27. On a handoff from Russell Wilson. In Honolulu. With Elvis Dumervil bringing him down after a 7-yard gain at the Pro Bowl.

Felton had three other rushes that day, including a 3-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, enough to stimulate new proposals for Vikings coordinator Bill Musgrave.

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