EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- This isn't the way Toby Gerhart saw things unfolding last offseason when he was building himself into the human ATV that would muscle the grind-it-out Minnesota Vikings through rough times until Adrian Peterson could be eased back to greatness.
"I thought I'd get more touches than normal," Gerhart said. "But Adrian is a freak."
Gerhart wasn't complaining. Teammates say he never complains. The former Heisman Trophy runner-up out of Stanford lives in a 300-carry body that is on pace for a career-low 51, and yet he is still smiling.
"We got to the end of that Detroit game (Nov. 11), and I was like, 'Dang, I didn't get a single carry,' " Gerhart said. "Thankfully, I got two catches."
Yes, a professional running back just gave thanks for catching two passes for 15 yards while watching as Peterson rumbled for 171 yards rushing.
"We're all here to win the game," Gerhart said. "Adrian was on a roll. (Quarterback Christian Ponder) was spreading the ball around. And we beat the Lions for the second time to go 2-0 in our division."
Backup center Joe Berger has a locker next to Gerhart. Berger swears Gerhart is sincere.
"I don't think it's complicated,"
Despite having his left knee surgically rebuilt last December, Peterson leads the NFL with 1,128 yards rushing.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Peterson's pace of 112.8 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry has been sustained over the course of an entire season only four times in the NFL's first 92 years. Jim Brown did it in 1958 (127.3 and 5.9 over 12 games) and 1963 (133.1 and 6.4 over 14 games). O.J. Simpson did it in 1973 (143.1 and 6.0 over 14 games) and Barry Sanders did it in 1997 (128.3 and 6.1 over 16 games).
"There are times when Adrian could easily step out and take a play off," Gerhart said. "But he wants to carry this team on his back because he's done that his entire career. It's a testament to his character, his attitude, his pride. That's impressive."
Meanwhile, Gerhart has 32 carries -- three fewer than Ponder -- for 122 yards (3.8 per carry). Of course, that number might be higher if Gerhart hadn't fumbled three times in the final 31/2 minutes of the Vikings' Week 3 victory over the 49ers.
Since then, Gerhart has 13 carries in seven games.
"I get a lot of people saying, 'Hey, look at the bright side, you're staying healthy. Maybe next contract, you'll get an opportunity to carry the ball somewhere,' " Gerhart said.
Gerhart is under contract through next season. At that point, he is almost certain to leave for a team looking for a No. 1 running back.
"I'd love to carry the load," Gerhart said. "But Adrian is the best running back in football. He's the man. So I stay in tune with that and keep my mind right so I can talk with Adrian on the sideline and tell him things I saw. We communicate well, which is good because I pretty much live through him at this point."