Both of the Vikings' soft-spoken backup quarterbacks were talking Monday, but neither sounded completely optimistic he would be ready to start Sunday in Detroit.
Head coach Brad Childress benched starter Brad Johnson in the third quarter of Sunday's 23-13 loss to Chicago after Johnson threw four interceptions. Second-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger replaced Johnson and led the Vikings on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive during Bollinger's third series in the game.
"We had that great drive yesterday where we went down and scored, and then we (recovered) the onside kick. We had some opportunities," Bollinger said. "It was disappointing for me to be in there and really have some opportunities to get us back in reach of winning the game and just not be able to finish it."
On the ensuing series, Bollinger suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his left (non-throwing) shoulder on a sack by Adewale Ogunleye. Bollinger, who emerged from the training room once with an electronic device slung over his should before having it removed to conduct an interview, referred all injury questions to Childress.
Bollinger said the contraption was part of treatment and made the injury look worse than it really is, but the Vikings will have to wait until later in the week to see if an injection into the AC area will allow him to practice and therefore make him an option to start on Sunday.
Bollinger said he views an opportunity to play like any other backup would.
"I think every time someone steps on the field, you are kind of auditioning for a job. You see the way that it goes in this league. You've just got to try to make the most of your opportunities," he said. "I don't think of it as an audition or anything of that matter. I think of it as an opportunity to help the offense be successful and what I need to do to help the team win. I think once you get caught up in all the other stuff, you're kind of setting yourself up for failure."
Once Bollinger was inserted into the game, he said the Bears changed the way they were playing defense.
"When I went in, they started playing a little bit different, playing an eight-man box and playing a little different front. Once you get in there, it's really a matter of getting up with the speed of the game as soon as possible," he said.
If Bollinger's shoulder injury prohibits him from being an option on Sunday, then third-string QB Tarvaris Jackson is another option to start in place of Johnson.
After Sunday's game, Jackson seemed hesitant to take the initiative in pushing for a start, and he wasn't stumping for the job Monday either.
"I wasn't hesitant. It's just not really my decision to make," Jackson said. "It's Coach Childress' decision and if he calls on me, I'll be ready. I can play – I'm just not going to be bragging and boastful about it."
When Bollinger was injured, Johnson could have been re-inserted into the game for the Vikings' final drive, but Childress opted to go with Jackson, the team's second-round pick in last April's draft.
"I know the offense – not as good as I'd like," Jackson said. "Learning the offense isn't that hard, it's trying to figure out what defense they're in. Once you figure that part out, things start slowing down."
Jackson said he received limited practice time with the first-team offense during preseason and training camp, and those repetitions were further limited because the Vikings carried four quarterbacks through most of the preseason schedule.
While he acknowledged that some rookies might be hurt in their development by being placed in a starting role before they were ready, he said that wouldn't affect him.
"It really depends on the person. If you put a rookie quarterback in there and he messes up, depending on his personality, he might not come back from that," Jackson said. "With Coach Childress and the way we're doing things right now, I'm fine with that. It wouldn't matter to me.
"If you sit out two years and then you have to play, you'll be more ready, I think, but you can only get better if you play. You can only get experience if you play. Experience is key for a quarterback, so it doesn't matter if you're two years down the line or you're a rookie."
Bollinger said each opportunity to come off the bench and play is different. Sometimes it takes time to get comfortable in a game and other times the first play can get a backup quarterback in rhythm.
"If you come out and hit a 40-yard pass right away, I'd be feeling comfortable. It's always different. Yesterday was a tough first series," he said of the series that rendered two sacks for the Bears. "Obviously, I didn't really do anything, but I took a couple hits and that always helps get your blood flowing a little bit. It was a little chilly, but you warm up pretty quick when you get hit a couple of times."
It seems unlikely that Childress would turn to Johnson again as his starter Sunday, but Jackson still said the wily veteran might be the best option while the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt.
"By (Johnson) being a 14- or 15-year veteran of the NFL, he gives the team a better chance of winning, but when my chance comes I feel like I'll be ready," Jackson said.
Childress said he was considering his options Monday and wasn't going to name a starter just yet.
Not surprisingly, Jackson said he has the best rapport with undrafted rookie wide receiver Jason Carter, who had four catches for 155 yards in the preseason while working with Jackson mostly on the third-team offense.
Carter hasn't played in a game yet this season, spending eight games on the practice squad and being inactive the last three games. He spent one week active, but did not play in that game.
"We hooked up a lot in the preseason and scout team and stuff," Jackson said of Carter. "I feel confident in all my receivers, but me and him have the most chemistry because we were together a lot in the preseason."
The two dubbed their on-field success in the preseason as "7-11," a reflection of their jersey numbers and saying it was because they were open all night.
Rookie safety Greg Blue gave the Vikings an opportunity to stay in the game Sunday late in the fourth quarter when he recovered an onside kick – the first such recovery of his entire football career.
"I've made plenty of big hits and fumbles before, but this was the first onside kick I've ever recovered. … It showed guys I've got hands," Blue said.
Notebook: Backup QBs Assess Their Situations
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