McLeod Bethel-Thompson is undeterred by the Vikings signing Matt Cassel to be the backup for Christian Ponder.
Bethel-Thompson, last year's third-string quarterback who was kept on the 53-man roster over veteran Sage Rosenfels, is one of four quarterbacks the Vikings expect to take to training camp. Last year, Joe Webb was the No. 2 quarterback, but the Vikings have said over the last month that they would like to add a veteran quarterback to their roster that could help Ponder and be a viable replacement if needed due to injury. They did that last week when they signed Cassel to a two-year deal.
"I don't think it changes my goals at all," Bethel-Thompson said in a text to Viking Update this week. "I have things in my game I need to improve on and I intend to do that. I try to control the things I can control, and that's my performance and improvement on a daily and yearly basis. I look forward to learning from him what I can and making the push forward to make the Vikings the best team possible in 2013."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder didn't get to play at all last year, but he did get to stay on one team for an entire season, a first for him.
In 2011, he was signed by his hometown team, the San Francisco 49ers, as an undrafted free agent but was among the final round of cuts. He was signed by the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League, where he started two games. After the UFL season concluded, he was signed by the Miami Dolphins to their practice squad.
On Jan. 13, 2012, he signed a futures contract with the Minnesota Vikings and proceeded with what he called an "awesome" year.
"Obviously 2012 was an awesome year. I had a blast coming from trying to make it in the NFL and feeling my way out to being on the squad and improving, I felt like, week to week," Bethel-Thompson said. "Going against Chad Greenway each week on the scout team and the whole defense, it was absolutely fantastic. Working with the coaches … I'm just trying to pick their brain each week and it was an awesome, awesome year."
He left Minnesota in January unsure what this year would bring, but he was hoping to work with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer back in California. So far, that hasn't happened, but Bethel-Thompson said he they have talked and he continues to work to improve.
"Footwork is always a challenge for me on a daily basis. I feel there are some athletic things that I can improve on – arm strength and flexibility. And then the touch aspect of my game, the touch passes and other stuff like that," he said. "You can always get better and that's why I'm kind of excited and I'm going to go back to California and also pick the brains of some of the people that have done it."
While MBT didn't get a chance to play last year, or even take many reps in the Vikings offense once the season started, he was just happy to have a role. His duties were mainly running the scout team for the Vikings offense.
"It was great each week having a different playbook to match what you're going against each week. That was a challenge. It was an awesome challenge," he said. "There aren't many jobs, first of all, where you can wake up and go play a game each week and second of all be mentally challenged like that on a week-to-week basis. It was awesome."
Despite a strong arm, Bethel-Thompson never was able to establish himself as a consistent starter in college, whether at UCLA or later at Sacramento State, some of that due to injuries.
Now he is working on fine-tuning his skills.
"The speed of the NFL, you need to be consistent and the same every time, and so that's kind of from the footwork basics all the way up," Bethel-Thompson said. "Being fast and efficient at the same time – no false steps. That's a constant battle that I'm going to have to fight now and going forward. It's a process."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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