If there has been a word that has been synonymous with Tarvaris Jackson, it would be frustration. The fans have been frustrated with him. The coaches have been frustrated with him and, amid a swirl of internet rumors that the Vikings are ready to bail on the Jackson Experiment after this season if their isn't a dramatic turnaround, it would seem the cup of frustration runneth over.
But perhaps nobody is more frustrated than Jackson himself. When the Vikings moved up to take Jackson with the last pick of the 2006 draft, the thinking was that he was their quarterback of the future. With time and patience, he could turn into a star. That hasn't happened yet and much of the reason is that Jackson hasn't been healthy for almost any of the time he's been a member of the Vikings.
Last season, he suffered a knee injury in practice that sidelined him for more than a month. He needed a second procedure to clean up the knee. This year, he suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for three weeks (two games and the bye week). He returned to action two weeks ago and, his second game back, he sustained a cracked bone of the index finger of his throwing hand.
While any injuries are a cause for concern, they are something new to Jackson.
"It's been very frustrating," Jackson said. "Throughout my whole career, I've never really been hurt. It was all petty stuff. I could play. Last year, I hurt my knee and had to sit out. I came back again and had to have another scope of my knee. Then I come back and hurt my groin. And now this (finger injury). It's frustrating because I've been injury-free and healthy throughout my career."
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell admitted there could be concern about Jackson being injury-prone.
"You start to think it's a concern anytime that a guy, whether it's a quarterback or whether it's any other position, has the skill level but can't keep it on the field," Bevell said. "Sometimes you have to say they are very legit injuries, you have to look at that, or is it one where, hey, this guy just always has something. We're still early with him really in terms of everything with him. I think that was his sixth start that he had the last game so he is still young in his career. There are still things that he is working on and we'll just have to see how much these injuries affect him or continue to happen."
His latest injury came in the second half of the Cowboys game – an injury that happened in the third quarter, according to Jackson, but was worsened later in the game on a sack. While he played through the injury, when he woke up Monday morning, he couldn't even bend the finger – much less consider throwing a football. While it has improved, it is still swollen and the improvement isn't coming in leaps and bounds.
"It feels a lot better than it did Monday, but I haven't thrown a football a lot," Jackson said. "I'm trying to take it easy on it. It will be O.K. throwing the football. It's taking the snap that will be a big deal."
The concern is that the index finger is typically the last finger to touch the ball as it is being released from a quarterback's hand. A spiral rolls off the four fingers and is held in place with the thumb. If the index finger is a problem, the pain is considerably less than the worry of a ball sailing.
"I have a high tolerance pain, so that isn't a problem," Jackson said. "(When it comes to) controlling the football, six inches makes a difference. You have to throw a tight spiral and it's hard to spiral the ball without your index finger. It's the important finger other than the thumb as far as throwing the football goes."
Head coach Brad Childress agreed, saying that, while there remains plenty of concern over whether Jackson can provide the needed grip on the ball to throw passes, it is just as disconcerting as to whether he will be able to handle 60 or more snaps without a fumble.
"He is going to go as he is able to," Childress said. "We'll just see. The other thing that you factor in is center-quarterback exchange. That ball comes up with a pretty good thump and his right hand is up and that is what is accepting the football, so that's something that you don't want to be an adventure."
While the Vikings have yet to make it official that Jackson won't be starting Sunday, he has been limited in practice both Wednesday and Thursday and Kelly Holcomb has been taking most of the first team snaps. Once again, Jackson has found his dream season as a NFL starter befallen with another setback. But, unlike the previous injuries he has sustained, where he has been a tireless worker in attempting to rehabilitate and get back on the field as quickly as possible, this time the only thing that will help his ailing finger is time – something neither he nor the Vikings have in great supply, which just adds to their collective frustration.
"There's nothing you can do other than put ice on it and let it heal," Jackson said with a shrug. "It's a bone. There isn't any rehab you can do."
Jackson Feeling Frustration of Many Injuries
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