Webb talks backup duties, Blazer and more

QB Joe Webb's Vikings career has run the gamut, but he remains committed to dutifully serving his role as the backup. He talked about how he helps Christian Ponder, the past as a receiver and where that Blazer package has been.

For years, the Maytag Corp. ran series of commercials centered on the lonely Maytag repairman. The recurring theme was that Maytag appliances were so effective that they never needed to be repaired and the Maytag repair guy had nothing to do.

In NFL terms, Joe Webb is the Maytag repairman. He has to be ready to make a house call at a moment's notice, but, for the most part, he is a man without a defined role.

When a player is the primary backup at any other position, it isn't unusual for him to see playing time. Toby Gerhart is Adrian Peterson's backup and he enters a game knowing he will be on the field for a dozen or more plays. Fred Evans is the backup to Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion, but he enters a game knowing he will be called on to step into the lineup and make plays. Webb, under ideal circumstances, will never see the field.

While it goes against what most rational people would consider normal, backup quarterbacks have to spend the week prior to games under the assumption that they will be starting – even though reality says they won't. It's a mind trick they learn to perfect and it keeps them motivated and engaged in the game plan from one week to the next.

"The key is that you have to stay mentally prepared just as much as physically," Webb said. "During the week, you have to train yourself to approach it like you're going to be the starter. I've done it before, so I know that you can't take anything for granted. At any time, you may have to grab your helmet and go out there with the game on the line. Injuries happen in this league to quarterbacks and you have to be ready at a moment's notice. Having been through it before helps, because I know how it feels and what I have to do to get myself ready for when I'm needed."

Webb sees his relationship with Christian Ponder as a mutually beneficial arrangement. There are things he can see from the sideline that perhaps Ponder doesn't. When Ponder comes off the field, they share information and look over the aerial photos to point out what they saw. In the end, Webb believes it makes both of them better for the experience.

"When you're on the sideline, you can learn just as much as if you're on the field," Webb said. "Christian and I are both in this together. When he's on the field, I'm his eyes off the field. I tell him what I see and he can use that when he goes back out there. When we win or lose, it goes on both of our records. We have a great relationship working together and we both push each other to be better. It isn't a competition between us. Sure, we push each other, but we do that to make both of us better."

If things go as planned for the Vikings, Ponder will be the starting quarterback and Webb will be on the sideline wearing a baseball cap rather than a football helmet. Reality, however, dictates No. 2 quarterbacks see action for more teams than not. While there have been no season-ending injuries to starting QBs yet this season, 11 teams have already used their No. 2 quarterbacks and, in his first two seasons, Webb has started at least one game each year – two games in 2010 and one last year. He led the Vikings to road wins over Philadelphia and Washington and has given the coaching staff confidence that if Ponder struggles or goes down to injury, Webb won't be a step backward when he enters the game.

As a result, Webb prepares for games waiting for his opportunity and, when it comes, he intends to make the most of it – as he has done in the past.

"Everyone has their time," Webb said. "You're time will come in this league and you have to be ready to step up when you get called. I'm the type of guy who has two ‘P' words – stay prepared and stay patient. That's what I'm doing right now and if something does happen, I'll be ready to go. But, at the same time, I'm going to stay patient. I will take advantage of the opportunity when that moment comes."

While the Vikings haven't used the Blazer package (their version of the Wildcat formation) that features Webb this season, he said it hasn't been abandoned. It simply hasn't been opened up yet. Because of his athleticism, Webb has always been questioned about whether the Vikings might use him as a wide receiver. He was drafted as an athletic project that was intended to be converted from a small-college quarterback at UAB to an NFL wide receiver. But once then-head coach Brad Childress saw the zip with which he threw the ball, that plan got scrapped.

Webb is relieved that he doesn't get asked those questions anymore, because he has been assured that he remains a quarterback only for the Vikings, not a QB in name only.

"That's always been up to the coaches, but I've always considered myself to be a quarterback," Webb said. "That doesn't mean I'm not willing to line up as a wide receiver if the team needs it, but I came out of college as a quarterback and have never lost that mentality. Coach Frazier did me a service by nipping that in the bud and telling me that I'm a full-time quarterback on his team. After he said that, as far as I was concerned, all those questions were answered."

As the Vikings prepare for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Webb will be practicing as if he will be the starter. If everything goes as planned, he won't see the field, but, as has become his custom over his three NFL seasons, he is waiting in the wings in case the understudy needs to take center stage.

"You never want an injury to happen to a teammate," Webb said. "If Christian can stay healthy for all 16 games and play at a high level, nobody will be happier for him than me. This is a team game and you put the guys on the field that you think give you the best chance to win. I know what my role on this team is and I want to do it to the best of my ability. It's a different type of situation to be in, because if everything is going well you don't see the field during the game. But you have to be ready when it's your turn to show why you deserve to be here. They always say ‘next man up' for a reason. If a starter goes down, the next man has to step up and bring what he can to the team. That's my job, I know that and I want to bring what I can to the table when that time comes. One thing they won't be able to say about me is that I wasn't prepared. I will be."


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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While it goes against what most rational people would consider normal, backup quarterbacks have to spend the week prior to games under the assumption that they will be starting – even though reality says they won't. It's a mind trick they learn to perfect and it keeps them motivated and engaged in the game plan from one week to the next. \"The key is that you have to stay mentally prepared just as much as physically,\" Webb said. \"During the week, you have to train yourself to approach it like you're going to be the starter. I've done it before, so I know that you can't take anything for granted. At any time, you may have to grab your helmet and go out there with the game on the line. Injuries happen in this league to quarterbacks and you have to be ready at a moment's notice. Having been through it before helps, because I know how it feels and what I have to do to get myself ready for when I'm needed.\" Webb sees his relationship with Christian Ponder as a mutually beneficial arrangement. There are things he can see from the sideline that perhaps Ponder doesn't. When Ponder comes off the field, they share information and look over the aerial photos to point out what they saw. In the end, Webb believes it makes both of them better for the experience. \"When you're on the sideline, you can learn just as much as if you're on the field,\" Webb said. \"Christian and I are both in this together. When he's on the field, I'm his eyes off the field. I tell him what I see and he can use that when he goes back out there. When we win or lose, it goes on both of our records. We have a great relationship working together and we both push each other to be better. It isn't a competition between us. 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As a result, Webb prepares for games waiting for his opportunity and, when it comes, he intends to make the most of it – as he has done in the past. \"Everyone has their time,\" Webb said. \"You're time will come in this league and you have to be ready to step up when you get called. I'm the type of guy who has two ‘P' words – stay prepared and stay patient. That's what I'm doing right now and if something does happen, I'll be ready to go. But, at the same time, I'm going to stay patient. I will take advantage of the opportunity when that moment comes.\" While the Vikings haven't used the Blazer package (their version of the Wildcat formation) that features Webb this season, he said it hasn't been abandoned. It simply hasn't been opened up yet. Because of his athleticism, Webb has always been questioned about whether the Vikings might use him as a wide receiver. 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