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Toby Gerhart could carry early load for Vikings

We talked on Wednesday about the Minnesota Vikingshaving to plan for life -- at least temporarily -- without Adrian Peterson. The All-Pro running back has made it crystal clear he plans to return for the team's opener, but burning him out early could be this team's biggest mistake.

Some of you didn't agree with our assessment of the Vikings, but coach Leslie Frazier and his staff have used this offseason to take a close look at backup Toby Gerhart. Frazier hinted the third-year back might be leaned on heavily out of the gate.

"(Gerhart's) still a developing guy," Frazier told The Star Tribune on Wednesday. "And there are some things we're going to find out in these OTAs. Before we send him home and come back to training camp, we'll give him a prescribed weight. But we wanted to take a look at him at where he is right now and just see how it would affect his quickness. Because there's a very good chance he's going to have to really carry the load early on."

In the five games Peterson missed over the past two seasons, Gerhart averaged 21 touches, per Rotoworld. In the four games A.P. missed last season, Gerhart carried the ball an average of 18 times per game for 73 yards. He's bulked up this offseason, according to The Star Tribune, but we don't have a read on how he'd fare over an extended period.

All of this points to a change in Minnesota. Even if Peterson returns for the opener, the offense now belongs to Christian Ponder, for better or worse. In a division stocked with some of today's best signal-callers, Ponder remains a mystery. The Vikings must find out if they've settled the quarterback position sooner than later. As great a back as Peterson is, the days of handing the ball to him 300 times a season are likely a thing of the past.

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