“Seems like everybody’s going to a two-back system but us,” he says. “But with the guy we have, it’s hard to go to a two-back share.”
Gerhart will never say so in advance. But when his rookie contract expires next March, he’s certain to go on a job hunt. Like Felton in 2012. Restless, eager, seeking opportunity.
“Eventually his day is going to come,” Frazier says. “And he’s going to shine. He’s a very good back. But part of our existence as an NFL player is understanding the role and accepting that role.”
At long last
Even when the right opportunity with the right fit came at the right time, Felton almost tripped through a trap door. Ten weeks after signing with the Vikings, he spent a Friday night drinking at the Towne Place Suites in Eden Prairie, got an urge for a chicken sandwich and made a 0.92-mile drive to McDonald’s.
An employee thought Felton was falling asleep behind the wheel and called police. Felton was arrested and cited for two misdemeanor counts of driving while impaired.
“That could have easily been the end of my career,” he says. “Definitely.”
The next morning Felton called his family in tears. Shaken, he also explained his side to the Vikings’ front office. He prayed for a second chance but knew the organization might see his arrest as an unwanted distraction from an unproven journeyman and cut him loose.
Frazier made his disappointment known in front of the entire team.
“But,” he says, “I saw something in Jerome that convinced me he made a mistake and would learn from it. … If we had let him go after that incident, I would have been surprised if he would have gotten picked up.”
Even with the second chance, Felton was exhausted and losing motivation. Peterson knows now the fullback has come so close to quitting on multiple occasions.
“Good thing he didn’t,” Peterson says with a smile.
After all, Peterson’s 2,097-yard season had Felton’s imprints all over it.
Felton’s Week 13 smash on Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk was his favorite block, part of a 210-yard Peterson eruption. Two weeks prior, he held a key fourth-quarter block on Detroit’s Erik Coleman long enough to spring Peterson for a 61-yard game-sealing touchdown. In St. Louis, he lit up Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, clearing Peterson for that 82-yard score.
In totality, Peterson believes Felton’s blocks were “Worth 600-700 yards over the course of the season. Maybe more than that.”
So when a second journey into free agency approached, Felton had zero desire to go elsewhere. Sure, he and his agent played the game, fielding calls from other teams, using the Texans’ interest for leverage. But after so many seasons of misery and anxiety, Felton wasn’t searching for the highest bidder.
“There’s no way to value being comfortable and happy where you’re at,” he says. “Now I can relax. Now I can be myself.”
The feeling has been liberating. It’s one Gerhart hopes to experience.