NFL

Vikings backup quarterbacks still aspire to start

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)

Once again, Brett Favre has stolen the show - and all the playing time - in Minnesota and relegated the backup quarterbacks to irrelevance.

So Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels try to take advantage of every throw in practice and preseason games, soaking up as much of the playbook as they can in case Favre's record-setting consecutive-games streak suddenly ends.

They're still unproven, one big reason why the Vikings pursued Favre so hard to play for a second straight year. They're each confident in their ability to be a reliable starter in the NFL, though, stuck in that age-old status quo that transcends pro sports into just about every industry in the world.

Can't get the job without the experience.

Can't get the experience without the job.

''I chose to play football for a living, so it is what it is. Of course I'd like to get more reps,'' Jackson said, adding: ''I still get better by watching, but it's not the same. I feel like it's time. I'm not getting any younger.''

Jackson has 19 career starts, plus one forgettable playoff game. Rosenfels has 12 career starts with Miami and Houston.

Favre? He has started 24 career games in the playoffs alone. Plus, oh, about 285 regular-season games.

''This is a difficult situation knowing ... I want to start in this league, but it's the situation I'm in,'' Jackson said.

Both Jackson and Rosenfels have, for the most part, kept any frustration to themselves or out of the public realm. But the 32-year-old Rosenfels is 5 years older than Jackson. He's feeling antsy, too, even if he does his best not to show it.

''Every quarterback wants to play. Every player wants to play in this league,'' Rosenfels said. ''There's things you can control, and there's things you can't control. All I can control is myself and do my best to control the other 10 guys I'm on the field with.''

So he takes some inspiration from former quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Trent Green, who didn't get much of a chance in the first half of their careers before blossoming in their mid-30s.

''I'm just going to keep working and keep fighting and do the best I can,'' Rosenfels said.

Jackson smiled this week when asked if late-blooming guys like Gannon and Green give him hope for a brighter future. He talked about watching old highlights on the NFL Network and seeing clips of then-coach Mike Holmgren on the sideline chewing out Favre for bad decisions he made early in their time together in Green Bay.

''He got a chance to make those mistakes, though, to get better,'' said Jackson, who was drafted in the second round, like Favre. ''It was a different situation for me. I feel like I wasn't able to keep playing through my mistakes.''

Jackson was yanked after two games in the 2008 season, only taking the job back when Gus Frerotte got hurt. Injuries in 2007 were the main reason Jackson was limited to 12 starts.

Jackson, who could become an unrestricted free agent after the season, depending on what happens with the league's labor situation, at least has a firm hold on the No. 2 spot should Favre get hurt. Rosenfels was acquired in a trade with the Texans last year as the assumed front-runner for the job, but after Favre was wooed to Minnesota and he found himself a third-stringer.

This year, Rosenfels has looked a lot more comfortable with the offense, and he has some sparkling preseason statistics to prove it, even if almost all of the playing time has come against backups and players destined to be cut this weekend. His 118.4 passer rating is third in the NFL during the preseason, with four touchdowns, no interceptions and 392 yards.

''Anytime you're in a system for that second year and beyond, it's going to feel a whole lot better,'' said Rosenfels, who should get plenty of playing time in Thursday's final exhibition game against Seattle.

The Vikings face a dilemma this weekend, whether to keep flashy rookie Joe Webb and have four quarterbacks on the active roster or try to slip him on the practice squad and take the risk the sixth-round draft pick might be claimed on waivers. Rosenfels is also considered a candidate to be traded.

So could they keep four?

''Is it a possibility? Obviously it is. A lot of teams go with three and some teams go with two, so we've seen it all,'' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

Tagged: Vikings, Brett Favre, Sage Rosenfels, Tarvaris Jackson

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