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Minicamp, graduation keep Gerhart busy

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Those long late-night flights to and from California have been called "red-eyes" for years and now Toby Gerhart knows exactly why.

The bleary-eyed star running back has racked up some serious frequent flyer miles during a whirlwind week. Gerhart finished up his finals at Stanford on Tuesday, then hopped a redeye to get to Minnesota in time to join the Vikings for his first full-squad workouts as a professional.

"Once I got here, straight from the airport at 6 in the morning here to the facility and we pretty much met all day," Gerhart said. "Had a quick lift. I just met with coach (Eric Bieniemy) going over all the installs that I missed. Just throwing everything at me."

After two days of minicamp practices, Gerhart took a flight back to California on Saturday night to return for his graduation from college. He was excused from the final day of practice on Sunday to attend the ceremonies, but planned to take one more redeye on Sunday night to get some more work in with his fellow rookies at Winter Park this week.

No time to empty his brain after cramming for finals at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. No time to fully celebrate one of the highlights of his life in earning a degree in management science and engineering. Such is life when you're about to become the primary backup to Adrian Peterson on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

The hectic schedule was made necessary because Gerhart, who was a second-round pick of the Vikings in April, was not able to participate in the numerous optional team practices earlier this spring. League rules prohibited Gerhart from participating in the workouts because Stanford had not finished its calendar school year.

That put Gerhart, a star athlete and honor roll student all his life, in an unfamiliar position — behind. In addition to everything else he has been shackled with since being drafted in April — classwork, preparing to move, working out — he had to find some time in between to study his new playbook. The Cardinal ran a similar offensive system under former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, but nothing beats the hands-on learning that Gerhart missed in May.

"It's a little bit different not being here, having (Bieniemy) explaining the exact details of it," he said. "But for the most part I had a pretty good baseline understanding of what was going on."

During his brief stay in Minnesota this week, Gerhart showed the Vikings that he didn't just go to Stanford for the football.

"As a Stanford guy, he picks it up pretty quickly," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "And then it has carried over to the field. You see him making some plays. He did a nice job out here catching some balls, which is something that we wanted to see him do. So he has done a good job."

Perhaps as impressive for the Vikings was the lengths he went to make sure he was in Minnesota as long as possible. The big headline of the week was Peterson skipping all three days of the mandatory camp to attend the fourth annual Adrian Peterson Day festivities in his hometown of Palestine, Texas.

Coach Brad Childress didn't hide his disappointment in Peterson, who waited until the middle of last week to inform his coach that he would not be here. This came after Peterson did not attend most of the optional practices in May.

Childress said on Sunday that he has not spoken to Peterson this weekend and has not decided if Peterson will be fined for missing the time.

In the mean time, Gerhart was able to get more repetitions in the offense with Peterson away, and Childress said he liked what he saw.

"I didn't see much that led me to believe he won't be right up to speed with what is going on when we start in the fall," Childress said.

After finishing second to Alabama's Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman Trophy vote in history, racking up 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns on the field and realizing his dream of being drafted in the NFL, Gerhart's senior season was full of excitement and accomplishment.

For him, though, the biggest came on Sunday at graduation, which made the crazy schedule and all those late-night flights well worth it.

"It's big," Gerhart said. "It's four years of work so it's something special for me, something special for my family. Coming from a prestigious university like that, it means a lot."