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Friday, July 31, 2009
Jackson knows where he stands

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

MANKATO, Minn. -- One thing is clear about Tarvaris Jackson: He isn't pouting after an offseason in which his team nearly signed a new starting quarterback. Jackson was his usual even-keeled self as Minnesota took the practice field for the first time Friday morning. Afterwards, he insisted he had been through too many ups and downs in his short career to allow the Vikings' pursuit of Brett Favre to upset him.

 
  AP Photo/Jim Mone
  Tarvaris Jackson's familiarity with the Vikings' offense has given him an edge over Sage Rosenfels.

"I went through it last year," Jackson said. "It wasn't any different."

Indeed, the Vikings benched him after two games last season and named Gus Frerotte their permanent starter. Jackson eventually reclaimed the job after Frerotte injured his back, but the episode left Jackson and many other observers wondering whether he would ever develop into the Vikings' long-term starter.

I can't tell you that he is any closer to claiming that status after watching a typical Jackson performance Friday morning: A few ropes mixed in with some one-hoppers. But I can tell you Jackson has a sophisticated and, I think, accurate sense of where he stands with the organization: He knew he didn't have the team's full confidence before the Favre pursuit began, not because of it.

"It wasn't a celebration [when Favre declined the Vikings' overtures] as everyone was trying to make it," Jackson said. "I just want to come out here and work hard regardless of who is here."

The Vikings have been grooming Jackson since 2006, but injuries and poor performance have left him unable to complete a full NFL season. You'll be hard-pressed to find many people in the NFL who believe he can be a long-term starter, especially after coach Brad Childress -- his primary backer -- spent three months recruiting an alternative. Suddenly, Jackson is in the final year of his rookie contract and probably down to his last chance.

"He has some pretty good calluses built up," Childress said. "You get that way as a quarterback. It's high highs and low lows. And usually the highs aren't as high as the lows are low. But you've got to be able to take that as a quarterback. You know what? He does pretty well with that."

For what it's worth, I'd say Jackson has entered camp a bit ahead of competitor Sage Rosenfels, who still seems to be playing catch-up after arriving in a March trade. Receiver Bobby Wade said Rosenfels is "a slight step behind" because of Jackson's familiarity with the offense, and I think Rosenfels now understands that Minnesota's West Coast offense isn't as similar as he might have thought to the version he ran in Houston.

"A lot of the language is similar," Rosenfels said. "It would be like two people reading books. If it's in English, it's much easier to read and make sense out of it all. But there are a lot of differences, in my opinion, between this offense and the Houston offense."

Even Childress noted there is a bit of separation between the two from "the familiarity standpoint."

Said Childress: "Tarvaris has been through training camp and he has been through the installations more than Sage has. He probably has a little better understanding when we start, but Sage ... will get up to speed very quickly."

I'm heading out to the Vikings' second practice in a bit and then will bring you some non-quarterback thoughts -- and a division-wide roundup by early this evening.

NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert previews the upcoming season.