Climbing The Hill

With Gus Frerotte looking for an opportunity to be a starter, third-string QB Shaun Hill is hoping to move up to No. 2 on the depth chart if Frerotte does move on. See what Hill and Frerotte had to say about the situation.

Vikings backup quarterback Gus Frerotte thinks Shaun Hill is ready to be the No. 2 guy behind Daunte Culpepper for the Vikings, and Frerotte could be a starter in 2005 for a handful of teams.

After starting games for Washington, Detroit, Denver and Cincinnati, Frerotte settled into a low-profile complementary role with the Vikings. In his second season at Minnesota, he was Culpepper's second set of eyes from the sidelines during games. On the field in 2004, he was Morten Andersen's holder for field goals and point-after-touchdown kick.

But Frerotte thinks he can do more somewhere else. Not that he is disgruntled. He just sees the potential to be an impact player with several teams around the league next season. That's why Frerotte turned the Vikings down before training camp, when they inquired about a possible contract extension. Starting March 2, Frerotte will be an unrestricted free agent, and Miami — without a solid starting QB and former Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan running the game plans — could be a leader for Frerotte's services.

"It's obvious I have the knowledge and the skills to play and help a team win," Frerotte said at the end of the season.

In doing so, Frerotte has also publicly endorsed third-stringer Shaun Hill as now having the ability and experience to be Culpepper's backup. It's a big step for a player who has never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game.

"It was a very nice compliment to hear Gus say that," Hill admitted. "I went home with a little more confidence after I read that. Hopefully, things will work out like that. You just never know what the Vikings are thinking. Hopefully it'll work out that way to where I am the backup if (Frerotte) should not return."

Hill signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2002. After a season being third string behind Culpepper and Todd Bouman, Hill spent the offseason playing in NFL Europe, where he was named offensive player of the week twice. He led NFL Europe in passing yardage (2,256) and was second with 13 touchdown passes.

Last year, Hill spent part of the offseason in the Twin Cities working out with Culpepper and offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach Scott Linehan. Hill said his offseason at Winter Park was just as valuable as his offseason the year before in Europe.

"I gained a lot of valuable experience over there and I brought it back here and gained more confidence," he said. "But last offseason here was valuable, too."

Evidence of Hill's improvement was on display last summer during training camp. "I look back at camp and I think I had my best camp in three years," he said. "I had one game in the preseason where I wasn't happy, but I showed improvement overall."

Linehan noticed.

"He's really gone from a guy that was really frightened to stay on this team to a guy who is a real solid three, who will compete to be a solid two someday, which is a good scenario to have," Linehan said of Hill before the Vikings' season ended.

The Vikings' evaluations are underway, but if Frerotte signs elsewhere, Hill hopes he can move up the organization's quarterback ladder.

"They've done it before with other guys who had no regular experience, but I have no idea," Hill said. "Hopefully it'll work out. I'm going in blind."

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