Jackson suffered a fractured index finger on his throwing hand on Oct. 21 against the Dallas Cowboys and missed last Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly Holcomb, who was acquired in a late-preseason trade with the Eagles, started against his former team in Jackson's place, but Holcomb suffered a whiplash-like injury to his neck when he was sacked in the third quarter and he was replaced by Brooks Bollinger, whom the Vikings acquired in a trade with the New York Jets just before the 2006 regular season started.
Bollinger completed 7 of 10 passes for 94 yards in his relief appearance of Holcomb, and Bollinger's 99.6 passer rating was the best mark the Vikings have posted this season. His other relief appearance of Jackson produced the second-best rating at 91.7. Jackson's best rating of the season is 75.1 in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Yet, despite Bollinger leading the Vikings' three quarterbacks with a 97.3 rating this season, Childress said on Wednesday that his declaration of Jackson starting if healthy isn't just a glance toward the future. It's also based on Childress' belief that Jackson gives the team the best chance to win now.
"I do and I believed that coming out of training camp," Childress said. "The other side of that equation is that you have got these nine games. … I want to see exactly what you have in that package and I want to see him grow and develop."
Jackson is ranked 34th among NFL quarterbacks who have thrown at least 14 passes per game with his 48.7 rating. Arizona's Matt Leinart is 33rd with a 61.9 rating. Jackson is also 34th in completion percentage at 45.9 percent.
To date, it's been difficult for Childress or anyone else to gauge Jackson's progress because he hasn't been able to stay healthy enough since being named the starter for the final two games of the 2006 season.
Since recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery early last season, Jackson started and lost the last two games of 2006, then started and split the first two games of 2007 before a strained groin sidelined him for two games. He returned to split the next two games he started, but left that Dallas game with his fractured finger.
"It just hurts your rhythm," Jackson said of the injuries he suffered over the last two years that have some wondering how durable he will be. "You get in a nice little rhythm and then you miss a game. I've missed three games already this year and we've played seven – that's too many games. I've always been taught that part of my job is to be there play in and play out."
Jackson practiced threw the ball last Wednesday and Thursday and then back off his routine before being deactivated on Sunday. He then threw to wide receiver Robert Ferguson on Tuesday, which is normally the players' day off, and worked again in Wednesday's practice.
Childress said Jackson looked better on Tuesday than he did last week.
"Significantly different than he did a week ago and really even at the end of the week," Childress said. "The swelling is down and it looks like he has got better control of the football."
However, the Vikings practiced outside on Wednesday, when it was chilly with winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour, so it might be hard to tell if his accuracy is affected by the wind or his fractured finger.
Childress said he has no complaints with how Jackson has approached his rehabilitation of his different injuries.
"He has been way compliant in terms of the time he spends here in trying to get well," Childress said. "We talk about it's no sin to get hurt, it's a sin to stay hurt. And why is that? Because providing it's not something broken that is going to take time to heal, there are just so many things, so many modalities, so many different techniques, whether it's ART, or chiropractic, or massage, or stim, or all the things that they can do now to help bring you back and he has availed himself to all of those."
Still, there is one operation the Vikings can't perform – transplanting experience into a second-year quarterback with only six starts in his professional career.
"You are never going to be able to transfuse experience and there is not a shot for that, so that happens as you go," Childress said. "Just all the factors that go into the quarterback play, whether it be arm strength, mobility, decision-making, those are all the kind of things that you are looking to continue to get better at."
"You know what, that's just this business," Childress said of Cottrell wanting to win more in his return trip to Minnesota. "… Do I think he wants to come in here and win? Absolutely."