Considering the sweltering temperatures in Mankato, the generally high testosterone level of professional football players and the fact that Thursday morning marked the final full practice session and everyone was really anxious to get on with the show…well, let’s just say, the stage was set for things to get chippy at Vikings camp.
And, indeed, things did get chippy.
Given the way events have unfolded so far this camp for Toby Gerhart, it’s no surprise that the rookie ended up at the center of the dust-up.
It’s been, shall we say, an intense camp for Mr. Gerhart. First he showed up late, thanks to his extended contract negotiations, and then when he did finally arrive, certain veterans on the defense, Pat Williams foremost among them, took it upon themselves to provide Mr. Gerhart with a memorable and at times painful initiation into the NFL.
This initiation process – mostly it involves knocking Toby on his rookie can – has continued pretty much unabated since the first day of camp.
Gerhart, to his credit, has taken his daily beatings without whining. But you had to imagine that, underneath, he was getting hotter than the mercury in a Minnesota thermometer.
On Thursday, Gerhart appeared to boil over at last.
Perhaps unwisely, Gerhart chose Ray Edwards as the man to finally vent a little of his frustration against. Then again, who on the Vikings defense would be a wise person to give a little extra business on a miserable day with practice winding down and some guys possibly itching for a refreshing little camp brawl?
According to Gerhart himself, the whole thing started when he chipped Edwards on a play before going into his route – a perfectly natural thing for a running back to be doing. For some reason, Edwards didn’t appreciate the way Gerhart executed his chip, and he let the former Stanford stand-out know about it.
Afterward, Gerhart said he was surprised by the way Edwards reacted.
“I didn’t expect it at all, but that’s the way it goes,” he told reporters. “Everybody had my back and they had their back. It’s offense-defense. People are getting after each other.”
By reports, Vikings coaches mostly had Gerhart’s back. Chip Scoggins tweeted that things got “heated” between Edwards and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier after the incident. And Gerhart’s position coach Eric Bieniemy also reportedly got in Edwards’ ear.
Edwards, for his part, said he was just trying to send a message to the rookie about the proper way to do things in practice.
“Just let him know don’t do what he did,” Edwards said. “Hopefully we don’t have that thing again. Don’t need to do that at practice, not against your own guys.”
So, what exactly did Gerhart do that angered Edwards so much? So far, it doesn’t seem like anyone knows. Except Edwards.
The good news is that, by the time practice ended, everyone was laughing about the tiny fracas.
In his press conference, Brad Childress characterized the dust-up as no big deal, then praised Toby Gerhart’s gumption.
“It’s what makes these guys good,” Chilly said. “You’ve got to have a little edge to you, you’ve got to have a little stink about you. Toby’s choking it back and understands the rookie role and all that kind of stuff. But you’re only going to take it for so long. It’s like the old Popeye deal, ‘That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.’ The great thing is the eye in the sky doesn’t lie. We have it all on videotape.”
Leave it to Chilly to put things in, uh, perspective.