Vikings backups set to return to background

Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart will likely be back on the

field soon for Minnesota, and that means Matt Asiata will be pushed

to the background again.

He’ll take his important-but-basically-invisible spot on special

teams and otherwise stand on the sideline while the offense is

working, a third-string tailback simply waiting for a chance to

carry the ball that may or may not come again.

Last Sunday, the opportunities were there. Thirty of them.

Asiata took three in for touchdowns.

He held on tight each time, avoiding any fumbles and helping the

Vikings burn through valuable time on the clock on their way to a

48-30 victory over division-leading Philadelphia.

Asiata totaled only 51 yards for a paltry 1.7-yards-per-attempt

average, but his already-sizable fan club in the Vikings locker

room expanded during that bittersweet afternoon for the

26-year-old.

”I look at it as a blessing, just getting the opportunity to

show the coaches what I can do and help this offense out,” Asiata

said.

Asiata’s father, Pita, was killed in October when the tour bus

he was driving collided with a utility truck near the Nevada-Utah

line.

”My dream was to make it in the NFL, and I wish my dad was here

to witness it,” Asiata said softly after the win over the

Eagles.

He was undrafted out of Utah in 2011 and cut in training camp by

the Vikings. He worked in an industrial supply warehouse that

season instead, staying in shape for his next chance, and the

Vikings gave him another one in 2012.

He made the team as the backup to fullback Jerome Felton and

carved out a niche on special teams, and 15 months later there he

was making a key block on Cordarrelle Patterson’s 79-yard go-ahead

touchdown reception in the final minute at Baltimore.

Peterson’s sprained foot that day moved Asiata up on the depth

chart, and Gerhart’s hamstring injury near the end of that game put

Asiata on top the following week.

”We were all so fired up for him,” quarterback Matt Cassel

said. ”There’s a lot of talented people that sometimes don’t get

that opportunity, and I was just happy for him that he did get an

opportunity to play.”

Those opportunities can be fleeting, and Asiata wasn’t the only

one last Sunday whose extensive playing time could wind up being

the most of their careers. Tight end Chase Ford filled in with Kyle

Rudolph and John Carlson out and caught both passes thrown his way

for 55 yards.

”Coach Frazier always talks about the next man up. When you get

your opportunities to make a play, you have to make it,” Ford

said.

Then there’s cornerback Shaun Prater, cut by the Eagles two

months ago. He was in the starting lineup against Philadelphia with

Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson all injured. Cook is on

track to return this Sunday at Cincinnati, leaving one less open

spot in the lineup.

Prater intercepted a pass at the 5-yard line with the Vikings

leading 24-9 in the third quarter last Sunday. He switched

receivers he was covering during the play, which allowed him to

surprise quarterback Nick Foles by leaping in front of DeSean

Jackson to snag the ball.

”Usually that’s a guy who has been playing a while and has been

in that situation a number of times that makes that play, but his

awareness and his acute alertness to what needed to happen was

impressive to see,” coach Leslie Frazier said. ”He made some

other plays, too, that just shows you that he’s a very aware guy

and a very smart football player.”

Online:

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