EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Toby Gerhart’s came to the Minnesota Vikings in 2010, he arrived as a second-round pick off of a decorated college career and runner-up in the 2009 Heisman Trophy voting.
Four seasons later, Gerhart has 241 career carries as the backup to MVP running back Adrian Peterson.
Gerhart’s time in Minnesota is likely to close without many more carries added to the ledger. He’s in the final season of the four-year contract he signed as a rookie and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer with a chance to play a more prominent role likely to come from other teams.
According to one report, the Indianapolis Colts tried to give Gerhart the opportunity early.
Jason LaCanfora of CBS reported Sunday that Indianapolis had reached out to the Vikings about potentially trading for Gerhart before the Colts made the blockbuster deal last week with the Cleveland Browns, sending a first-round pick for Trent Richardson.
“I was like, ‘Hey, man, at least some team might want me maybe down the road, potentially,'” Gerhart said of his reaction to the report. “Like I said, I’m here and happy to be here and just try to help this team win and get in the win column.”
Gerhart has been a steady backup for Peterson throughout his NFL career and hasn’t griped about his playing time in Minnesota. Gerhart and Peterson became friends and work together well.
But Gerhart hasn’t had the chance to live up to his potential coming out of Stanford, where he was a consensus All-American with 1,871 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. Gerhart’s most extensive NFL action was in relief of an injured Peterson in 2011 when he started five games, had 109 carries for 531 yards, averaged 4.9 yards per carry. He added 23 catches for 190 yards and scored four total touchdowns.
When Peterson’s healthy, Gerhart’s been limited to playing mostly on third downs for his blocking and pass-catching ability. This season, he has one carry for five yards and three catches for 17 yards.
Gerhart doesn’t worry about the trade rumors.
“I can’t really focus on that stuff,” Gerhart said. “I have a job. I’m here to help this team win in whatever capacity that may be. I try not to pay attention to any of that stuff, just do what I can do – work out, contribute when I’m on the field and whatever happens, happens. It’s a crazy business. Things can change in an instant so you never know.”
The link to Indianapolis was a logical one. Gerhart played for Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton at Stanford and was also a college teammate of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck. According to the report, the Colts were calling around looking at young backs on their rookie contracts to be the power-back in Hamilton’s system.
LaCanfora reported Indianapolis had a deal in place with another team before agreeing to the Richardson trade, but LaCanfora wasn’t sure which team had a potential trade with the Colts.
Gerhart said he found out about the trade rumor from his brother on Sunday afternoon.
“That’s really the extent that I heard about it and that’s all I heard about it,” Gerhart said. “I try not to pay attention to that stuff. I’m here and happy to be here and try to help this team win.”