Toby Gerhart has to feel like the Maytag repairman at this point of the season.
For those unfamiliar with the successful commercial campaign, the Maytag repairman had nothing to do because, for all intents, their appliances were so trustworthy they didn't require repairing.
When training camp opened, there was a general consensus that the Vikings made a wise move in drafting Gerhart to be the apprentice at the feet of Adrian Peterson. With no guarantees that "All Day" would be able to play three hours on Sundays, Gerhart entered the season as a commodity. During Peterson's record-setting push for NFL immortality, Gerhart has become the largely forgotten man in the Vikings offense.
In the first five games of the 2012 season, Peterson had 96 carries. In that span, Gerhart had 28 carries – a time share of about 3-to-1 in favor of Peterson. Over the next seven games, Peterson had 138 carries. Gerhart had five – a disparity of 28-to-1.
A lot of players would hold some resentment at being the No. 2 man with almost nothing to do like Gerhart has been – 28 carries in his first five games and just 21 in the last 10 – but Gerhart is realistic about the current situation. He is an insurance policy and Peterson has been so outrageously effective that he understands why his role has been diminished.
"He's been playing unbelievable," Gerhart said. "He has a chance to break the all-time record – the record that people said would never be broken. He's on pace for 2,000 yards. When you're playing that well, you can't argue against it. He's a freak. He's carried the team on his back. I just have to make the most of any opportunities I get."
Gerhart was surprised when the Vikings took him in the second round of the 2010 draft for the same reason most observers were – the team already had a young featured back viewed by most as the pre-eminent runner in the entire league. But he also realized that the "next man up" philosophy is engrained in the NFL and Gerhart knows his role in the Vikings offense.
While he doesn't particularly like his current role – he has been an offensive workhorse since junior high school – he understands why his role has been diminished. Peterson is on the verge of a record-setting individual season. He is the understudy watching the performance.< br>
"He's got the hot hand," Gerhart said. "Coming in here, I knew the situation. As a competitor, yeah, it kind of gets frustrating. But he's playing extremely well and we complement each other well. When I get those chances, I have to make the most of them."
What Gerhart's role will be Sunday has yet to play out, but chances are it will be a supporting role at best (likely there to pick up blitzes) and a nonexistent role at worst. Yet he's preparing as though he will have a significant role – a mindset most reserves take on during a preparation week.
Gerhart believes his hard work will pay off if and when his number gets called. Considering what is at stake for the team – their playoff ticket hasn't been punched yet – he's excited about the prospect, whether he's on the field or not.
"There's no better spot you can be in – last game of the season, everything on the line, playing the Packers at home," Gerhart said. "What more could you ask for in the final week of the season?"
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.