EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — J’Marcus Webb had spent his first day in Minnesota Vikings’ purple on Monday and praised the unexpectedly cool early September weather and the organization that is giving him another chance in the NFL.
After three somewhat tumultuous seasons with the Chicago Bears, Webb has his eyes on the future and the opportunity with Minnesota after the Vikings claimed him off waivers Sunday. Webb didn’t want to rehash the past with Chicago and what led to his release after he had started 44 games the past three seasons for the Bears.
He’s looking forward, almost without fail.
“No comment,” Webb said of what went wrong in Chicago, smiling. He then paused and added: “I’m not too sure. Things work out the way they need to at times and things don’t when they don’t. Moving forward, I’m really excited to be here. I’m loving every day of it. I just got here yesterday. It’s beautiful out here. I’m … excited. Things just didn’t work out and moving forward, I’m happy to be on the team and ready to contribute.”
Something did happen in Webb’s time with the Bears, though.
He was drafted in the seventh round out of West Texas A&M in 2010 and quickly found himself in the starting lineup just five weeks into his first season under then-Chicago offensive line coach Mike Tice, the former Vikings’ head coach. He started at right tackle as a rookie before moving to left tackle in his second year. He’s started every game there over the past two years.
But Webb became the spotlight on a failing Bears’ offensive line, most notably after being yelled at by quarterback Jay Cutler in a nationally televised game. Chicago allowed a league-high 56 sacks in 2010, was tied for fifth in 2011 and eighth last season. Only the Arizona Cardinals (162) have allowed more sacks over the past three seasons than the Bears (149).
Chicago signed Jermon Bushrod from New Orleans in the offseason to play left tackle and moved Webb back to the right side. He had his pay cut from $1.3 million to $630,000 and then the Bears decided to go with rookie fifth-rounder Jordan Mills at right tackle and cut Webb.
Webb didn’t have a choice of where to go because he was claimed off waivers, but was happy to end up in Minnesota.
“I was really happy with the opportunity that coach Frazier called me up,” Webb said. “I was really excited to get out here and get started. It’s season time and we’re ready to roll.”
The Vikings were looking for an experienced swing tackle to back up starters Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt and had their eye on Webb when he was released.
“We knew it was a possibility, but we didn’t know if it would happen or not,” Frazier said. “We had some discussions, so we had an idea, but still there were other teams ahead of us who could claim him, so we weren’t sure that it was going to happen. But it worked out.”
Minnesota knew Webb well from playing within the division. It also has taken advantage of Webb, including in 2011 when Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was shooting for the single-season sack record and beat Webb for 3 ½ sacks in the season finale.
Pro Football Focus graded Webb 50th among 80 tackles last season, 43rd against the pass and 43rd against the run. He was 65th overall in 2011 and 77th in 2010. According to Pro Football Focus, Webb has given up 30 sacks the past three seasons, but his best season in their rankings was last year.
And the Vikings see the upside in Webb, who has started most of his career, has experience on both sides and is 6-foot-7 and 333 pounds.
“We had a chance to line up against him a few times,” Frazier said. “We liked his length. That really sticks out at you, along with his athletic ability. He’s a guy who has shown the ability to be a very good offensive tackle in our league. There are definitely some things he needs to work on to become a complete player. That’s one of the reasons we were able to acquire him. But we like the size and the experience he has as a tackle.”
Frazier said left guard Charlie Johnson could move back outside to left tackle in a pinch, but the team sees Webb as having the flexibility to play either side. After his first practice with Minnesota, Webb admitted to “a lot of information going in and out of my head right now.”
He knows he will be asked to learn both sides, but called himself a fast learner.
“Right now I’m comfortable at both and that’s why they seem to have acquired me,” Webb said. “So, I’m going to do my best at both of those positions any way I can.”
With both eyes focused fully on his future and away from his past.