Longshot hoping third time is a charm

Vikings quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson has tried to hook on with an NFL team, but has fallen short in stints with San Francisco and Miami. He hopes the Vikings may be the third time-is-a-charm possibility, but the odds seem significantly stacked against him.

One of the more interesting sights of the Minnesota Vikings' offseason practices was seeing No. 4 throwing the ball around.

Before anyone gets too excited, Brett Favre hasn't come out of hibernation again – after all, this is mid-June, not mid-August – but the Vikings have a quarterback once again donning the No. 4 jersey and it is McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Who?

Bethel-Thompson is the fourth QB on the Vikings roster and has bounced around the league looking for a place where he fits. He has spent time with the 49ers and Dolphins and hopes that the third team is the charm.

However, even he was quick to admit that it appears as though the deck is stacked against. The Vikings are going to keep three quarterbacks and it looks as though Bethel-Thompson is the clear candidate to be the odd man out. Christian Ponder is the franchise QB – a first-round draft pick with high expectations being placed upon him. Joe Webb is a talented player who has earned his NFL stripes by playing well in limited opportunities. And Sage Rosenfels is a wily veteran and a potential mentor for the young Vikings' quarterbacks.

Bethel-Thompson knows the odds are firmly against him, but said he has been welcomed into the organization and wants to put his best foot forward, even though he realizes that his chances of making the final roster are somewhere between slim and none.

"I can't really think too much about my future here," Bethel-Thompson said. "All three of those guys have been great to me. They're all great players. Sage has been around the league a long time, Christian was a first-round draft pick that many think is the franchise guy here and Joe has proven over the last couple of years that he belongs here. You just worry about the reps you get. As the No. 4 guy, they're limited reps, but you have to deal with what you work with and try to improve yourself as much as you can with the reps you're given and make the most of them."

As with anything else, the more practice someone gets at any occupation, the better he gets. The hardest part for Bethel-Thompson initially when he was signed by the 49ers was learning the team's playbook. Compared to what he ran at Sacramento State, it was look going from a pamphlet to a phone book and, as a quarterback, he has to know each play inside and out so as to pass along the play to his teammates. There is no room for mistakes or confusion, which is why learning a third NFL playbook is difficult, but it keeps getting a little easier because many of the plays are the same, just their names have been changed.

"Compared to college, it's a night-and-day difference," Bethel-Thompson said. "This is my third NFL playbook, so it gets easier each time. It's a copycat league. Everybody runs similar stuff. But everyone has their own tweaks and their own terminology. As a quarterback, you have to know all the terminology. There's a lot of memorization and getting a feeling of the language, so it rolls off your tongue and you don't stumble over it. But in terms of concepts, there are a lot of similarities in what different teams run."

What Bethel-Thompson has started learning the hard way is that teams will use the same key words in describing a specific play, but the words like "Tiger" or "Laser" mean complete opposite things to one offense than in another.

Being able to make his away around the league has been a learning experience in more ways than one. Bethel-Thompson said that every quarterback is different, but each has own set of skills that has made him an NFL QB. He said he has stolen a lot of what he sees in other quarterbacks and tried to incorporate them into his own game.

When the final cuts come on Labor Day weekend prior to the start of the 2012 season, barring an injury to Ponder, Webb or Rosenfels, it is almost a guarantee that Bethel-Thompson's name will be on the cut list. He knows it. He's gone through it before. But he said he is looking to put whatever he can put on tape, knowing that 31 other teams will be watching and evaluating and some of them won't be as a set as the Vikings appear to be in their short-term QB situation.

If he has his way, Bethel-Thompson will remain with the Vikings, but he has already learned the hard way that roster decisions can be tough ones and only those who persevere are the ones who eventually get their shot.

"You always keep your eyes open to that every team in the league watches game tape and is always looking for players that they think can help their own team," Bethel-Thompson said. "You try to put the best game you can on film. Everyone is going to see that. I'm preparing for that, but I'm not worried about it. My only focus right now is here with the Vikings and becoming the best player I can here and performing as well as I can in the preseason that I want a spot here."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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Joe Webb is a talented player who has earned his NFL stripes by playing well in limited opportunities. And Sage Rosenfels is a wily veteran and a potential mentor for the young Vikings' quarterbacks. Bethel-Thompson knows the odds are firmly against him, but said he has been welcomed into the organization and wants to put his best foot forward, even though he realizes that his chances of making the final roster are somewhere between slim and none. \"I can't really think too much about my future here,\" Bethel-Thompson said. \"All three of those guys have been great to me. They're all great players. Sage has been around the league a long time, Christian was a first-round draft pick that many think is the franchise guy here and Joe has proven over the last couple of years that he belongs here. You just worry about the reps you get. 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