Rock and a Hard Place

Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will return to action Sunday against the Bears. But, almost a full month after injuring his groin, Jackson still isn't 100 percent and isn't convinced he will be at any point during the 2007 season.

When Tarvaris Jackson was being held up as a possibility to play against Kansas City and Green Bay despite suffering what clearly appeared to be an injury that would keep him out of action, the severity of his groin injury wasn't immediately revealed or discussed at great length. While the "secret" of who would be the starting quarterback the last two games was one of the worst-kept secrets in franchise history, it was clear that Jackson's injury was serious – whether is was publicly discussed or not.

Just how serious it was – or remains – was made clear Wednesday. Jackson, who many believe is spending his 2007 season auditioning to be the franchise quarterback the Vikings are looking for, admitted he's not fully healed from his groin injury suffered late in the Week 2 overtime loss to the Lions Sept. 16.

"I'm not 100 percent, but I'm good to play," Jackson said. "It's going to probably be pretty much like this for the rest of the season. I've just got to play through it."

When pressed by media to estimate how far less than 100 percent Jackson's health is, when one questioner threw out 90 percent as an option, Jackson agreed to that assessment. He said that the injury is one that has lingered since it happened, but that with reduced activity and physical therapy, it has improved to the point that he can resume his role as starting quarterback.

"It's about that time," Jackson said of returning to full-time duty. "I feel like (the healing process) is good enough to play. It's been three weeks now. I've been rehabbing to try to get it better. It's not 100 percent, but like Coach Childress says, at this point in the season, nobody is 100 percent."

Jackson was asked if the medical advice he had received has assured him that the injury isn't in danger of re-occurring or progressively getting worse and he said that, had he come back before the bye week, that was a distinct possibility. However, with additional rest, he thinks those odds have dropped considerably.

"Against Green Bay, I could have hurt it worse," Jackson said. "But right now I feel like it is healthy enough to play. Unless something drastic happens, I don't think it will be re-injured or (playing will) make it worse."

Jackson said that the key to his preparation for a return to action has been in his rehabilitation process. His work regimen includes extra stretching and warm-up activities to increase circulation to the injured area. However, with the game in Chicago – a potentially volatile outdoor environment – and the Vikings heading outdoors to practice in preparation Wednesday with temperatures in the 50s, the chance for an aggravation of the injury increases if there are long periods of down time between offensive series. Jackson hasn't discounted working on an exercise bike if the Bears offense has a long drive Sunday.

But perhaps the biggest unknown is whether Jackson's X-Factor – his ability to run if pushed out of the pocket – will be negated. While he's proclaimed himself healthy enough to play, Jackson, who has never suffered an injury that has been as serious as the one he is currently working through, said he's not convinced he can take advantage of his natural scrambling ability.

When asked if he believed his injury could hinder his scrambling and quick in-pocket movement, Jackson was painfully honest.

"Probably a little bit," Jackson said. "I can't really stretch out as far as I want to and run as fast as I want to right now. I have to stay inside the pocket and making something happen from inside the pocket."

While the healing process has been a time-consuming retardation of Jackson's learning curve in the role of starting quarterback, he believes if he's going to be a leader on the team and be a centerpiece of the offense for the near-to-distant future of the franchise, he needs to stand up, lead by example and get back into action. As he sees it, leaders play hurt when their bodies tells them they are ready and the time is right. That time, according to Jackson's body and mind, is Sunday against the Bears.

"You're always going to have little nicks and bruises," Jackson said. "I've always (had injuries) I could play through. But this one I couldn't really play through. There was a chance of me hurting it worse and being out a little bit longer. We didn't want to take that chance. Now it's time and I'm ready."

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