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Updated: January 25th, 2012 1:34am
Notebook: Adrian Peterson recovering, Vikings want to use Toby Gerhart

Notebook: Adrian Peterson recovering, Vikings want to use Toby Gerhart

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MOBILE, Ala. -- The Minnesota Vikings apparently plan to find more work next season for Toby Gerhart, and not just because Adrian Peterson is recovering from knee reconstruction surgery.

"The only thing that'll change our approach as much as anything is the way Toby performed for us down the stretch in Adrian's absence," coach Leslie Frazier said after Tuesday's practices at the Senior Bowl.

"He really did a great job for us and showed us that he is worthy of more carries. We want to be able to get him more involved in our offense going forward."

Peterson suffered a high ankle sprain on Nov. 20 against Oakland, missed three games and then returned on Dec. 18 against New Orleans, only to tear the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee six days later at Washington.

The All-Pro halfback had surgery on Dec. 30 and remains on track in his recovery, although Frazier said Peterson has yet to progress far enough to begin jogging in a pool. That Frazier is talking about reducing his workload could be simply an acknowledgment Peterson won't be ready for a full load at the start of next season, if at all.

With No. 3 halfback Lorenzo Booker a restricted free agent, Frazier also mentioned looking at players in this year's NFL Draft as potential complements to Peterson and Gerhart, who rushed for 369 yards on 68 carries (5.4 average) over the season's last five games before suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee in the Jan. 1 finale against Chicago.

Gerhart's injury didn't require surgery and is "nothing that we think is going to affect his play next season," Frazier said. "But because of that little bit of uncertainty regarding Adrian, we do have to take a look at running backs (in the draft) and we'll make a determination as we go through this process if there is a guy that we think could be a good option for us."

A consensus All-American at Stanford in 2009 and a second-round pick (51st overall) in the 2010 draft, Gerhart has averaged 4.5 yards on 190 carries with two touchdowns in his two NFL seasons. Prior to Peterson's ankle injury, he had gotten more than seven carries in a game just three times in his young career.

Eight picks, two to go?

General manager Rick Spielman confirmed the Vikings have two 2012 draft picks from other teams: a sixth-rounder they received from Cleveland in the September 2010 trade of Jayme Mitchell and a seventh-rounder they got as a giveback from New England in the Randy Moss deal.

That leaves them with eight picks, since they gave up their own sixth-rounder to Washington in the Donovan McNabb deal, and Spielman confirmed the team is anticipating two fourth-round compensatory for the free-agent departures of receiver Sidney Rice and end Ray Edwards.

"I think there are going to be a lot of great players in this draft," Spielman said. "And I think with the junior class coming in along with this senior class and there are some very good players down here, I'm very excited about this year's draft."

Compensatory picks are determined by a formula based in part on playing time and usually are announced at the NFL meetings in late March.

Battle tested

Tuesday's best practice battle came between two players who know each other well.

Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin twice beat Ohio State center Mike Brewster in a one-on-one pass rushing drill, and in both cases, the action carried past coaches' whistle.

"I've seen him for four years," Brewster said. "I know what he's all about. He knows what I'm all about. We like to compete and I'd say that's great football."

Squarely built at 6-foot-2 and 304 pounds, Martin has been one of the North team's top performers through two days of practice here.

"It's always heated blood, man, between (rivals)," Martin said. "But it's fun. It's good competition. We always go after each other. (Brewster)'s a good player, so we're both here at the Senior Bowl trying to show our stuff."

Rising fast

Another standout on the Senior Bowl's second day was Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight "Bill" Bentley, who made a series of plays on the ball while working opposite North Alabama corner Janoris Jenkins with the South's first string.

"They're deciding my future, no doubt," Bentley said. "But I've got to just do what I do. They came out here to watch me. They ain't come out here to not watch me do what I do."

The week's first interception in team drills went to Boise State safety George Aloka, who dived in front of Massachusetts tight end Emil Igwenagu to pick off Kirk Cousins' bootleg throw.

Quick hits

• Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he's hoping more consistent play from some of the young players who got their first shot in 2011 will help his units' play overall. "That's what I'm going to harp on all spring long down into training camp," Priefer said.

• Vikings coaches and scouts spent much of Monday and Tuesday nights interviewing dozens of Senior Bowl participants. They'll wrap any remaining interviews on Wednesday night, then hold meetings about February's scouting combine on Thursday and Friday.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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