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The Minnesota Vikings are facing a more complicated dilemma than you might imagine as they prepare for Thursday night's preseason finale at Dallas.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has played the equivalent of two quarters this preseason, limited by a sprained right knee suffered Aug. 16 at Baltimore. He missed last Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, for which he was scheduled to play into the third quarter, and is questionable for Thursday's game.
Ideally, the Vikings would love to get Jackson a tune-up before heading into the regular season. He is steadily increasing his practice load, and on Monday he told Minnesota reporters that he expects to have his full range of motion back in the few days.
The Vikings' original preseason plan called for at least twice as much playing time than he has received. If he doesn't play Thursday, Jackson will start Sept. 8 against Green Bay after a 21-day layoff. That's not exactly a formula for maintaining sharpness, especially when you consider he's played only one quarter -- in the Aug. 8 preseason opener against Seattle -- with new receiver Bernard Berrian.
On the other hand, the Vikings would have to weigh Jackson's situation against that of their other 10 offensive starters. Often, established veterans are held out of the final preseason game to protect their health and give them an extra week's rest before starting the marathon regular season. Would coach Brad Childress want Jackson playing without, say, center Matt Birk and/or left guard Steve Hutchinson? Or, would Childress risk playing Birk, Hutchinson and others for the sake of giving Jackson a couple more preseason series?
If we had to guess, we would say Jackson will sit out Thursday's game and focus on the regular season. But to be sure, there are no easy choices in this one.
Elsewhere this morning in the NFC North: