Vikings backup quarterbacks still aspire to start

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.