"(Last year) I knew what everybody was doing, but sometimes I pretty much just did what I had to do," Jackson said Tuesday after an organized team activity (OTA) practice. "I'm trying to learn what the defense is doing, trying to figure out what everyone is going to be doing, the offensive line, the receivers, the backs, everybody. Just try to get more comfortable with the offense, which I feel a lot more comfortable in just coming out here yesterday and today. I feel like we never left."
Despite starting only 14 NFL games so far and entering only his third season in the league, Jackson actually has seniority in the Vikings' current offensive scheme among the five quarterbacks the Vikings have on their roster this offseason. Backup Gus Frerotte was acquired this offseason and, despite playing for the Vikings in 2003, that was under a different coach and different offensive system. Brooks Bollinger came to the Vikings in 2006 after Jackson was drafted, and the Vikings are also carrying two rookies on their offseason roster – fifth-round pick John David Booty and undrafted rookie Kyle Wright.
But there is no substitute for playing time, and Jackson said last year's game experience helped a lot.
"I feel a lot more comfortable. I got to play a lot last year, and this offseason me and Coach, the quarterbacks crew, we watched a lot of film, doing different things, just teaching a lot more, and I learned a lot during the offseason," he said.
Jackson looked comfortable in the offense, despite some new faces on his offensive line and in his receiving corps. The biggest acquisition on the offensive side of the ball is receiver Bernard Berrian, who signed a six-year, $42 million contract that includes $16 million in guarantees. Berrian is expected to give the Vikings a deep threat, but Jackson said that, despite working with each other often during the last two months, Berrian hasn't opened it up on offense just yet in OTAs.
"Not quite yet. We aren't trying to make him run too fast right now, trying to save up for the season," Jackson said. "We don't want to have any fluke injuries or anything right now, but pretty sure once we get to the games, we're going to be throwing a lot more, like I said. Hopefully I'll be able to get it to him."
Jackson said it is now his job to prove the analysts wrong who identify quarterback as a position of uncertainty for the Vikings. After missing action early last season due to finger, hamstring and head injuries, he feels he made progress and showed the culmination of that progress in the season finale at Denver, when he rallied the team from a 19-3 deficit with two touchdown passes and two two-point conversion runs in the fourth quarter. The Vikings eventually lost that game in overtime, but Jackson showed some ability to improvise and lead his team from behind.
"By that time I had played consistently throughout the year," he said. "… Towards the end of the season, when I played the last couple games without getting hurt or injured, sitting out any plays or anything, I just got more comfortable from that game on until now. I feel even better since Denver. Even though we haven't been in any games, I feel like I'm a whole lot better than when I played that last game."
While acknowledging that McKinnie was in Florida, Childress wanted to keep the attention on the players that were attending Tuesday's workout.
"I'm really more focused on the guys that are here. I'm aware of that and what's going on, but I'm more focused on the guys that are here, whether they are rookies or 10-year vets," Childress said, fielding a couple of more questions on McKinnie.
"He'll be here. How about the guys that are here? How about the guys that are in purple and white, the Minnesota Vikings right there?" Childress said.