Gerhart says target is off his chest

Toby Gerhart endured a beating early in his rookie training camp, but he learned from those doing the hitting why that was. Gerhart talked about his initial camp, his progress in his rookie season and how he's feeling this year.

Toby Gerhart is feeling more comfortable, and certainly less bruised, after his second NFL training camp.

Last year, Gerhart entered training camp just on time after signing his rookie contract and with the reputation of being a bruising back in the PAC 10, but he was the one taking the hits on his first day. With a thud, oversized nose tackle Pat Williams sent Gerhart to the ground on a day in which then-offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, "I didn't know we were hitting that hard yet."

If Williams' big hit last year didn't sent the message, then linebacker Jasper Brinkley completed the delivery with another whack on Gerhart.

Looking back at year later, Gerhart says didn't feel alienated, but he did have something to prove.

"It wasn't hard. It was just a welcome to the NFL. I think the tempo is faster, the guys are bigger, they hit a little harder and they were testing me out," Gerhart said. "What I got, it wasn't a personal thing. It was more about, ‘Test him out.' At the end of it, they said it was about respect. They knew I was going to be part of the team and they wanted to test my waters and see what I had."

It would have been easy for Gerhart to feel frozen out, but a few defensive veterans let him know the extra-hard hits were part of the proving process. Jared Allen was one of the veterans; so was Chad Greenway, one of those who put a hard lick on Gerhart during one of those early practices in 2010.

"I went out to Chipotle last year with Jared and Chad and they said, ‘We're testing you. It's a respect thing. Don't take it personal. You're going to be one of the guys on the team with us and everyone wants to see what you've got, what you're going to be doing.' It was kind of comforting to know I wasn't just getting hit for no reason," he said with a smile.

This year, he hasn't felt that wrath. For one thing, there aren't as many full-pads practices because of limitations directed by the new collective bargaining agreement. Head coach Leslie Frazier also instructed his players to refrain from hazing this year, but he does want a physical team. And, finally, Gerhart is no longer the wide-eyed rookie.

"I'm much more relaxed, much more confident. Going out there just enjoying it and having fun," he said.

"… This year I'm much more comfortable with the guys. I don't have that target on my chest I felt like I had last year."

Gerhart made the most of his rookie season. Embedded behind superstar running back Adrian Peterson, Gerhart averaged 4.0 yards (332 yards on 81 carries) while playing in only 26 percent of the offensive snaps.

In his second season, he has to learn a new system, just like the rest of his offensive teammates.

"Toby's awfully sharp. He's going to help us in our pass protection. He has a different running style as we all know than Adrian, but we're going to do a good job of keeping Adrian fresh and also getting Toby on the field because he's going to be a great contributor in everything that we want to do," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said.

Gerhart reviewed his rookie film and came away looking to become more flexible and elusive.

"As the season went on, I got better. It was just being more fluid. I think for the most part, I was kind of rigid, afraid to make a mistake. Kind of not just letting me go and playing," he said. "I got more confident as the season went along. This year, [I'm] fully comfortable, fully confident. I'm just going to go out there and relax and let my instincts take over.

"I still feel like power running is one of my strengths and still feel I can break tackles and maybe run over somebody. But at the same time, work on that second level, make the safety miss."

Musgrave is being credited with developing an offense that suits individual players' wide variety of skills. He says it will be no different when deciphering when to use Peterson and when to insert Gerhart in the game.

"We're definitely going to put him in positions that are good for his skill sets. The plays that Toby will be asked to run will be right up his alley," Musgrave said. "They'll be some plays that both guys are good at, talking about Adrian and Toby, and there will be specific plays that are specifically Adrian-type plays and then we'll also have Toby-type plays."

After enduring a beating early in his rookie training camp, odds are Gerhart knows what to expect from the game and likely earned the respect of his teammates.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Toby Gerhart is feeling more comfortable, and certainly less bruised, after his second NFL training camp. Last year, Gerhart entered training camp just on time after signing his rookie contract and with the reputation of being a bruising back in the PAC 10, but he was the one taking the hits on his first day. With a thud, oversized nose tackle Pat Williams sent Gerhart to the ground on a day in which then-offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, \"I didn't know we were hitting that hard yet.\" If Williams' big hit last year didn't sent the message, then linebacker Jasper Brinkley completed the delivery with another whack on Gerhart. Looking back at year later, Gerhart says didn't feel alienated, but he did have something to prove. \"It wasn't hard. It was just a welcome to the NFL. I think the tempo is faster, the guys are bigger, they hit a little harder and they were testing me out,\" Gerhart said. \"What I got, it wasn't a personal thing. It was more about, ‘Test him out.' At the end of it, they said it was about respect. They knew I was going to be part of the team and they wanted to test my waters and see what I had.\" It would have been easy for Gerhart to feel frozen out, but a few defensive veterans let him know the extra-hard hits were part of the proving process. Jared Allen was one of the veterans; so was Chad Greenway, one of those who put a hard lick on Gerhart during one of those early practices in 2010. \"I went out to Chipotle last year with Jared and Chad and they said, ‘We're testing you. It's a respect thing. Don't take it personal. You're going to be one of the guys on the team with us and everyone wants to see what you've got, what you're going to be doing.' It was kind of comforting to know I wasn't just getting hit for no reason,\" he said with a smile. This year, he hasn't felt that wrath. For one thing, there aren't as many full-pads practices because of limitations directed by the new collective bargaining agreement. Head coach Leslie Frazier also instructed his players to refrain from hazing this year, but he does want a physical team. And, finally, Gerhart is no longer the wide-eyed rookie. \"I'm much more relaxed, much more confident. Going out there just enjoying it and having fun,\" he said. \"… This year I'm much more comfortable with the guys. I don't have that target on my chest I felt like I had last year.\" Gerhart made the most of his rookie season. Embedded behind superstar running back Adrian Peterson, Gerhart averaged 4.0 yards (332 yards on 81 carries) while playing in only 26 percent of the offensive snaps. In his second season, he has to learn a new system, just like the rest of his offensive teammates. \"Toby's awfully sharp. He's going to help us in our pass protection. He has a different running style as we all know than Adrian, but we're going to do a good job of keeping Adrian fresh and also getting Toby on the field because he's going to be a great contributor in everything that we want to do,\" offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. Gerhart reviewed his rookie film and came away looking to become more flexible and elusive. \"As the season went on, I got better. It was just being more fluid. I think for the most part, I was kind of rigid, afraid to make a mistake. Kind of not just letting me go and playing,\" he said. \"I got more confident as the season went along. This year, [I'm] fully comfortable, fully confident. I'm just going to go out there and relax and let my instincts take over. \"I still feel like power running is one of my strengths and still feel I can break tackles and maybe run over somebody. But at the same time, work on that second level, make the safety miss.\" Musgrave is being credited with developing an offense that suits individual players' wide variety of skills. He says it will be no different when deciphering when to use Peterson and when to insert Gerhart in the game. \"We're definitely going to put him in positions that are good for his skill sets. The plays that Toby will be asked to run will be right up his alley,\" Musgrave said. \"They'll be some plays that both guys are good at, talking about Adrian and Toby, and there will be specific plays that are specifically Adrian-type plays and then we'll also have Toby-type plays.\" After enduring a beating early in his rookie training camp, odds are Gerhart knows what to expect from the game and likely earned the respect of his teammates. 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