Tarvaris Jackson is the Vikings' starting quarterback – when healthy. Head coach Brad Childress has made that clear the last few weeks, but the problem has been that Jackson has missed a lot of games for a quarterback who hasn't even been in the league for two years.
He entered this season as the Vikings' starter, having won the supposed battle for the job with Brooks Bollinger. But, since the opening of the regular season, Jackson has started two games, been inactive for two games with a groin injury, started the next two, was inactive for the seventh game with a fractured finger, then started last week before being knock out of the game – and out of consciousness.
So, at what points does Jackson get stuck with the injury-prone label?
"That's a tough question for me to answer," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "When you look at it, he has been up to this point. Whether they are legitimate injuries, I think some of them are, but it's the nature of football. He may go now and start a streak like (Peyton) Manning and (Brett) Favre, but he may in two more games be out. It's such an unknown. I don't really call any of those guys injury-prone. It's just a fact of playing football."
Bevell, of course, has been on the other side of the equation when he was the quarterbacks coach for Favre in Green Bay. Bevell was an assistant coach in Green Bay for 96 regular-season games – or about one-third of Favre's streak of 245 consecutive games started.
"They show you the laundry list of the 160 quarterbacks or whatever it is now that have started since he has began his streak. It's a phenomenal deal that he has done and it's not the norm," Bevell said. "But we're here – we're satisfied with the guys that we have. They are working to get their health in order, and we just have to continue to bring them along."
It's more difficult to bring a new quarterback along and find out his abilities in game situations when he's sitting on the sidelines with a variety of ailments, as Jackson as has been too often this season. While Childress refers to the inauspicious starts of the careers of Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning when Jackson's development is brought up, neither of those two Pro Bowl quarterback were injured as often as Jackson has been.
"(It) definitely helps his progress the more reps that he gets and the more that he's in, especially game situations," Bevell said. "He sees different looks in games, he gets used to the speed of the game. All of that can help him and he needs every snap he can get. Still, we are talking about a guy that's started seven or eight games here. That's something that you can't take lightly. He is still definitely in the development and leaning process."
Jackson would have more than seven starts to his credit were it not for injuries. When the Vikings struggled offensively last year, he might have gotten more action if not for arthroscopic knee surgery during the season that hindered his rookie year of development. Instead, Brooks Bollinger got two stints in relief of Brad Johnson at the end of October and the beginning of December before Jackson was finally called upon to start the final two games of 2006.
This season, Jackson has been frustrated with his own inability to stay healthy after considering himself relatively injury-free during his collegiate career.
"You have to learn how to battle through those things, but by the same token, we are never going to put somebody out there that doesn't have his faculties," Childress said last week before Jackson suffered his concussion, later adding that he has been compliant in his rehabilitation efforts. "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."
But staying on the field and learning to improve on his team-worst 50.6 passer rating has been the challenge.
GRADING THE TROOPS
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier gave his defense a midseason grade of C. It is currently ranked 22nd overall in the league, but the 31st-ranked pass defense has severely hurt their grade.
"Our run defense is still as good as you would like (second in the league). Our pass defense, as far as explosive plays, is what we've got to improve on. Because of that I would give us probably a C because of our giving up some explosive plays on defense," Frazier said. "That is the one area we really have got to get better at over this second half and hopefully what happened against San Diego will be the start of that."
Is Jackson Injury-Prone?
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