A season ago, Viking RB Toby Gerhart came out of Stanford as a second-round draft pick with gaudy numbers and a reputation for being a power runner. For the first weeks of training camp, the veterans made sure he paid his dues. Williams clobbered him early and often, then talked at length about it. This wasn't college anymore, he said. Time to test the college kid. There was a scuffle with defensive end Ray Edwards. At times it looked as if Gerhart had a horn on his helmet and a target on his back.
Gerhart holds no nostalgia for that camp. Nor does he have any lasting bruises, either literal or figurative. But he will tell you that going through it all made him stronger.
"I was known for being a power runner, and I got tested, early and often, in training camp," he said. "There were dues to be paid, evidently. And I feel I grew from that."
A year ago, by his own admission, Gerhart was a bit tentative, perhaps slowed by the thought process of becoming an NFL back. He recalls obsessing about his footwork, every little detail. He remembers counting his steps while running routes. "I was being really robotic," he said. "You know, one, two, counting my steps rather than just playing football like I've always done."
This time, Gerhart said, it's different. He says he's more relaxed, confident.
Will that translate into more opportunity? It always will be difficult playing behind Peterson. And while the previous coaching regime might have groomed Gerhart as a third-down back, he appears to be penciled in as Peterson's power-running backup. Indeed, Lorenzo Booker could emerge as a third-down option.
This is an interesting piece of news for Adrian Peterson owners (re: Handcuff options).