When Joe Webb arrived at Winter Park for his rookie minicamp in 2010, he took the field as a wide receiver. That lasted about as long as it took then-head coach Brad Childress to see him throw a pass. Chilly called out for a red non-contact jersey and Webb has been a quarterback ever since.
Following his monumentally ineffective running of coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense in a humbling playoff loss to the Packers last January, general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier made the decision to return Webb to wide receiver. While it wasn't a move Webb endorsed, it was one he accepted.
"I never gave up on quarterback until (Frazier) told me what the plan was they have for me," Webb said. "I'm just going with it.
"I'm getting back in my groove," Webb said. "I haven't been out there (at receiver) since my rookie year – my rookie minicamp – but I'm getting back my groove."
Having experience at quarterback in the NFL is invaluable to Webb, who has spent the last three years learning how to immediately read and react to what a defense is planning. He believes he can be a help to the young Vikings receivers in the film room by pointing out to them how they can read what the defense is planning a split-second off the snap.
"It's a big help," Webb said. "I can help the other receivers when they're trying to read coverage and we watch film and they're trying to figure out what the coverage is. I can help them out with that. It's a big advantage for us."
Webb has spent the last months re-acclimating himself to the receiver position. At Wednesday's practice, Webb caught everything thrown at him – not a single dropped pass – but he realizes that he is still rusty and has a lot of work to do to master the receiver position at the NFL level.
"The most important thing was to try to work on my hand-eye coordination – making sure I'm catching the ball well, running good routes and getting in and out of my breaks," Webb said. "That's one of the main things I've been focusing on."
Webb is making some believers from teammates that used to catch his passes. Jerome Simpson, who worked a lot with Webb during his first season with the Vikings in 2012, was effusive in his praise of Webb's transition. As difficult as it is for a polished college wide receiver to make the jump to the NFL, a player who hasn't been a full-time receiver in five years faces a daunting task. Few could do it, but Simpson believes Webb could be the exception to the rule.
"Joe's an incredible athlete," Simpson said. "He's getting back into being a receiver and he's looking good. He always works hard. Anything he needs, I'm always there to help him."
Webb even impressed superstar Adrian Peterson, who has never had to change positions. What impacted A.P. is the willingness Webb has taken to embrace the battle to make the team as a receiver, not a quarterback. As Peterson sees it, he wants to make the team better and give the offense a weapon it didn't previously have.
"He's doing pretty good making the transition," Peterson said. "That's what you call an ultimate team player – a guy who keeps his head up, switches positions and is doing what's best for this team and doing anything that can help this team win."
So, is there going to be another reprieve for Webb to don the red practice jersey again? It doesn't sound like it. When posed with that exact question as to whether or not Webb was moving to wide receiver to stay, receivers coach George Stewart left little doubt.
"Absolutely," Stewart said. "That's the way Coach Frazier has termed it. We moved him to receiver permanently. He's not going back to quarterback. As far as I know he's looking forward to (the transition). He's excited about the move."
When Webb came to the Vikings, he was viewed as a long shot project as a converted small-college quarterback into an NFL wide receiver. For three years, his ability to throw the ball helped pave the road to his NFL career. Now the Vikings are going back to the plan of 2010 vintage. It's déjà vu. Just as he did back in 2010, Webb wants to make the Vikings roster, regardless of whether it means lining up under center or lining up on the outside of the formation. He's ready for the challenge and wants to keep his dream of playing in the NFL alive at a different position.
"I just like football," Webb said. "I have a passion for the game. I've been playing it since I was a little kid. It's a blessing to be out here on the field. Some guys graduate from college and don't get a chance to come out here on an NFL field. I'm just happy for the moment and trying to take advantage of it."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Webb working well at receiver
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