If Peterson isn't ready to return from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last December, Toby Gerhart will see his carries increase to workhorse-type numbers.
"I'm preparing to be the guy," Gerhart told The Star Tribune on Wednesday. "I try to do that every year. But this year it's a little more prevalent. I'm doing everything I can to be here, work hard, work with the new guys we have coming in. I'm pushing everybody and getting pushed by other guys. Preparing to be the guy, depending on whether Adrian comes back."
Coming off a 3-13 train wreck of a season, the Vikings need Peterson on the field from the first snap.
Coach Leslie Frazier last week issued a hopeful report: His All-Pro back already is running wind sprints inside the team's field house, and he has promised to be healthy enough to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1.
Gerhart's 4.9 yards per carry in 2011 actually surpassed Peterson's average (4.7), but there's no replacing AP's otherworldly gifts in the backfield. His carries have fallen each season since 2008, but that was influenced by the presence of Brett Favre in 2009 and 2010, along with last season's early exit.
It's fair to wonder about the future of a 27-year-old running back who's on the rebound from a torn ACL, but Peterson remains one of the game's premier rushers -- if not its best.