Toby Gerhart to make most of preseason before free agency in 2014
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Statistically, Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart has less mileage during three NFL seasons than Adrian Peterson had during his triumphant run to winning league MVP last year.
That's good for the Vikings, who need fresh legs to fill in for the few plays Peterson sits out in the regular season.
But it's even better for Gerhart, who is in the final year of his contract, and will likely take all the first-team reps in Friday's preseason opener to showcase to other teams why he should be a starting running back in 2014.
"Every time you put something on film, that's your resume," Gerhart said. "Everybody looks back at it, whether it be next year, in a couple of years, whatever it is. Whatever you put on the field, that's what you are and I'm going to try and put my best foot forward and make the most of my opportunities."
Gerhart has 240 regular season carries for 1,022 yards (also 64 catches for 512 yards) in three seasons.
For perspective on the wear-and-tear for a typical starting running, Peterson had 348 carries for 2,097 yards last season.
Peterson's yards are freakishly abnormal, and even while his carries, 22 per game, nearly topped the league -- starters can still expect 15-20 per game in a pass-happy league.
Meaning Gerhart has many solid seasons in front of him should he opt for more money and more playing time with another team this offseason.
"That's not what we're thinking about right now, we're thinking about the 2013 season and making the Vikings a good team," Running backs coach James Saxon told 1500ESPN. "Toby's a great part of this team, we're looking forward to his contributions this season."
Gerhart's contributions begin with the preseason -- where he's no stranger to playing first-string running back, as he did in four games last season with Peterson still coming off surgery for a torn ACL.
But on the last leg of his rookie contract, Gerhart knows the preseason is his biggest opportunity to step out from under Peterson's shadow and prove his worth.
"This is my chance, if I'm starting, to go out with the first-team [offense] and show what I can do," Gerhart said. "The amount of reps I can get, the more the merrier. It's always fun, especially this year."