Gerhart delivering shots with confidence

Many fans were surprised when the Vikings took Toby Gerhart in the second round of the 2010 draft. Two years later, Gerhart, the Vikings, the coaching staff and Vikings fans are happy that they did. With a change in teammates, it has been a change in attitude by and toward Gerhart.

It didn't take long for Toby Gerhart to know where the line of questioning heading his way was going. Once the names Pat Williams, Ray Edwards and E.J. Henderson were mentioned, a smile formed on his face before a question was even asked.

While none of the three are teammates of Gerhart anymore, they were two years ago when Gerhart came in as a highly-touted rookie. It seemed as though veteran defenders, especially Williams and Edwards, singled out Gerhart for abuse – routinely drilling him at the sidelines even in practice drills that didn't call for contact.

It would have been easy for Gerhart to get salty about his treatment. It wasn't masked. It wasn't veiled. It was in his face and he kept bouncing up, occasionally shoving back and moving on to the next play. However, Gerhart knew that to earn the respect of his teammates, he needed to prove to them he could take a pounding – not only from opponents, but from his own teammates.

"I think it was more of an initiation – a ‘welcome to the NFL' kind of thing," Gerhart said. "I took plenty of lumps my rookie year and it did seem like some of the guys went out of their way to lay a big hit on me to see if I could take it. We're still pushing each other hard, but I'm not getting waylaid on the sidelines anymore."

Many were surprised when the Vikings took Gerhart in the second round of the 2010 draft. After all, they already had the game's best running back in Adrian Peterson, but they saw something in Gerhart that would be a good fit with the Vikings – especially if Peterson went down to injury. That happened last year and Gerhart responded.

With Peterson still a question mark, Gerhart is using this year's training camp to improve his own game. No longer having to sacrifice reps for the franchise player, he said he is getting more work than he has in his career during this training camp.

"Any time you can get more reps and practice all the plays instead of just some of them, the more well-rounded you become," Gerhart said. "I've been feeling very good about things so far and our offense has shown a lot of improvement."

When Peterson went down against the Raiders, Gerhart had what, at the time, was a career day – rushing 21 times for 91 yards and catching eight passes for 42 yards against the Lions. When Peterson was lost for the season against the Redskins, Gerhart posted his first career 100-yard rushing game in the NFL, carrying 11 times for 109 yards. He proved something to the coaches – so much so that the team didn't go after a veteran running back in free agency or in the draft as insurance. If A.P. can't go, he was infused with confidence that the team is content with him.

"It's definitely reassuring that they had enough faith in me that they didn't go out to get someone else to compete for the starting job if Adrian can't go," Gerhart said. "It's helped my confidence and shows me that they respect me and plan on me being able to help this team."

Head coach Leslie Frazier reiterated that sentiment, saying the NFL is a game of opportunity and Gerhart has made the most of his chance when given the ball.

"He's extremely comfortable where he is," Frazier said. "He knows how we feel about him. We feel he's a top back in this league. He's shown when he's had a chance to get reps and get carries that he can make plays for us. His confidence is high and he knows that, if things aren't right with Adrian – and even if they are – that first game of the season, he's going to get some carries. We're very comfortable with that."

If Peterson returns to form as he recovers from his knee surgery, Gerhart will resume his role as A.P.'s understudy. But he has proven something to those who wondered if he could be an adequate replacement. Gerhart always had the confidence he could. He now has a lot more believers.

"I didn't feel like I had to prove anything to myself, but I wanted to show the coaches and my teammates what I could do with the opportunity," Gerhart said. "I've always been comfortable knowing I could play running back at this level. I think it's been nice to show what I can do to other people when given the chance to show that I can step up and help this team. I think I showed I was capable last year and hopefully be even better this year."


  • Adrian Peterson continues to work on his own, but was putting on a show of his own Thursday. He was running full speed sprints of about 20 yards and then cutting around head trainer Eric Sugarman. Frazier said he spoke with Peterson twice during the day and both times A.P. made it clear he wants to be activated.

  • Aside from Peterson, the only Vikings sidelined were TE John Carlson, rookie CB Josh Robinson and OT DeMarcus Love. Love showed up late at the morning practice, but wasn't seen on the field in the afternoon practice. Robinson was in full pads for the afternoon practice, but didn't participate.

  • Jerome Simpson made what was, at the time, the catch of the day during passing drills, hauling in a 30-yard pass that was overthrown by Christian Ponder. It became the second best play of the day an hour later, when, playing in 11-on-11 drills, rookie Greg Childs closed out a simulated drive by catching a pass from Joe Webb that was stuck on the back of the helmet of CB Reggie Jones.

  • Webb looked extremely sharp in the 11-on-11 drills, completing seven of nine passes on a drive that culminated with the Childs TD.

  • Childs and Jones mixed it up early and often during drills. They consistently kept fighting after the whistle.

  • Third-string QB Sage Rosenfels didn't take a ton of reps, but his value was showed at the end of one of the passing drills. He and WR Devin Aromashodu stayed on the field after the completion of one of the drills to work with Aromoshodu on their timing.

  • OT Patrick Brown left the field during the afternoon practice with what could be an MCL sprain.

  • The replacement referees weren't spared the wrath of the Vikings defense. Working on goal-line situations, the defense appeared to stuff a run for no gain, but were called for a neutral zone infraction, as the replacement referee said three players lined up over the ball – drawing the ire of several Vikings players.

  • Thursday was viewed as the most intense practice of training camp to date. While no fights broke out, there was a lot of serious trash talking going on between the offense and defense, highlighted when Jasper Brinkley drilled Lex Hilliard well after he reached the end zone.

  • The Vikings used four different players on kickoff returns in the special teams portion of practice – Percy Harvin, Marcus Sherels, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton.

  • The morning practice was held at Blakeslee Field, the home of the Minnesota State-Mankato football team – as opposed to the typical practice field workouts.

  • The team spent most of its morning walk-through practice working on short yardage/goal line offense.

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