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Leslie Frazier: “Very good chance” Toby Gerhart has to carry the load early

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The news about Adrian Peterson’s recovery from last season’s knee injury has been uniformly positive, but that doesn’t mean the Vikings are counting any chickens before they hatch.

It is only June, after all, and they know that there are still plenty of potential setbacks to Peterson’s recovery between here and the start of the season. That could mean Toby Gerhart will be the starter when the season gets underway and he’s made some changes to his body to prepare for the possibility. Dan Wierderer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Gerhart weighs the same as he did last season, but looks bigger because he’s made an effort to add mass this offseason.

The Vikings are using OTAs to see what, if anything, has changed about Gerhart’s game as a result of the change in his body. While explaining why, Frazier sounded the rare cautionary note about Peterson’s recovery.

“He’s still a developing guy,” Frazier said. “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.”

Frazier’s being more realistic than pessimistic when it comes to Peterson’s status. Even if Peterson is able to play Week One, the Vikings aren’t going to be able to use him as a workhorse right off the bat. That means a lot of work for Gerhart. It also means that Christian Ponder needs to move the ball through the air while the Vikings figure out how to deploy their backfield.

Whatever happens with the rushing game, Ponder’s growth will be vital to the Vikings’ ultimate success this season.