With Peterson hobbled, Toby Gerhart may get chance to showcase talents
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Perhaps it's time for the backup to show what he's got.
And I'm not talking about at quarterback.
The backup running back had mop-up duty Sunday against the Seahawks with the outcome essentially decided. He got a season-high seven carries for 67 yards, the most rushing yards he's collected since week 15 of 2011, when he ran for 109 yards on 11 carries against Washington. Gerhart also caught a pass for seven yards Sunday and was heavily involved in special teams with Matt Asiata's absence (shoulder).
"It was the first time I played and woke up sore. 'Wow, this is what it feels like to get hit again.' So it was fun," Gerhart said. "That's why I play this game. I love this game and to get the chance to go out there and get seven carries was fun and I had a good time with it."
Peterson didn't practice Wednesday and his availability for this week remains unclear. Historically, he's missed practice for injury and still played in the game Sunday.
But some observers have suggested that at 2-8, with the meaningful portion of the season effectively over, the Vikings could ease off Peterson's workload and give Gerhart more carries. Gerhart admitted he doesn't know Peterson's availability for this week, but as a backup he can't concern himself with that.
He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and if he gets more touches down the stretch, it could serve as a nice audition to prove his worth to other teams. The Vikings likely already know what they have with him, having drafted him in the second round (51 overall) out of Stanford and seeing him play nearly four seasons in purple. They've seen him much more than other teams, though, because he practices much more than he plays.
So, Toby, it might be nice to create a market for yourself by showing other teams what you can do in a game, yeah?
"I just go out and try to play hard and try to execute when I get a chance," he said. "What you put on tape is your resume. We'll see what happens when everything's said and done. But it's Green Bay week, we're focused on them right now."
In three and a half seasons with the Vikings, Gerhart has received 10 or more carries in a game just eight times, five of which came at the end of the 2011 season when Peterson dealt with a left ankle injury, and then the ACL injury. Sunday's game against the Seahawks was the first time this season Gerhart has received more than one carry in a game.
"I just do my thing every week. Go out, practice hard and if my number gets called in the game, go out there and try to execute," Gerhart said. "It felt good to be out there. Unfortunately it was at the end of the game and we were down big, but it felt good out there. Nice to get multiple carries in a row and have fun."
If he does get more reps the rest of the season, he'll likely want to prove he can be productive given a starter's workload. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in his rookie season. The next year he made five starts, largely because of Peterson's injuries, and averaged 4.9 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on the ground. In 2012, Peterson's MVP campaign, Gerhart was an afterthought. He got just 50 carries for 169 yards all season, for a paltry 3.4 yards per carry.
This year, with 65 percent of the schedule completed, he's had just 11 carries. That includes the bye, so with that removed, it translates to about 18 carries for the year.
That number could increase, with Peterson hobbled. It may be just the chance Gerhart needs to boost his resume.