Chief among those options is Gus Frerotte, who was taking reps with the first-team offense in Wednesday's organized team activity with Jackson tending to personal business in his hometown of Jackson, Miss.
"(Frerotte) is everything I thought he'd be," head coach Brad Childress said Wednesday. "He's got a good presence about him, and the thing you always ask yourself is, ‘Is the arm still alive?' And I see him snap off every throw he needs to make, so yeah, I don't have a question about that."
Frerotte did appear to have plenty of zip on his passes Wednesday, firing a few bullets over the middle – most of them caught, others sailing through the hands of the intended target – and connecting with a few receivers on the deep ball.
But the biggest transition for Frerotte, who will be entering his 15th season in the NFL, is getting used to another new offense.
"He primarily has been, if you will, a three-digit guy, a Norv Turner guy, a Cam Cameron guy, most recently Scott Linehan. They're out of that tree," Childress said, acknowledging that Frerotte's veteran presence will help shorten the learning curve, along with two years spent in Mike Shanahan's version of the West Coast Offense. "But he certainly understands the concepts. It's just putting the names on those concepts."
Childress is also ready with the statistic that NFL teams had 60 starters at quarterback last year. The Vikings accounted for three of them, with the since-released Kelly Holcomb starting three games and the still-active Brooks Bollinger starting one. Neither of them won a game as a starter, while Jackson went 8-4 in his 12 starts. A win in one of those four other games might have meant a playoff berth for the Vikings, further illustrating the thin margin for error in the NFL and the importance of a solid backup quarterback.
That makes preparing Frerotte important, especially on a day when the developmental Jackson wasn't at practice.
"Whether a guy's out because he gets the wind knocked out of him or whether it's a series or a game, you don't want to concede anything or concede snaps or anything like that, so just getting him up to speed and making sure he's where he needs to be is important," Childress said of Frerotte.
WHAT'S IN AN OTA?
Childress was asked how he keeps the veterans motivated for non-contact organized team activities (OTAs) when the regular season is still almost four months away. Money can be a powerful motivator, he said.
"These are highly motivated guys that you're talking about anyway, and as I say quite often, for what they're getting paid, there's not a lot of those CEO jobs out there when you pick up the want ads and start flipping through them that are going to pay them what they make," Childress said. "So the motivation – whether you're a veteran or you're a first-time rookie or you're a free agent – is to learn one thing or two things that may help sustain your career and make it a little bit longer. So, I think, all of them, they're taking the time to approach it that way."
Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said he is looking to find out about players' attitudes during OTAs.
"Some you can tell - number one, just their attitude in the meetings, how they pick things up and how they react to certain things out here," Ferraro said. "But really for us, until you get to the preseason and it's live, you're not really sure what you get unless you have a veteran, one that's done it and we've seen him do it on tape. But the younger guys, you almost have to wait until the preseason games in terms of seeing how they step up to the physical part of it."
CONSISTENCY A SPECIAL-TEAMS KEY
Ferraro said the special teams need to be more consistent this year.
"We had some solid improvement in our kicking game and our punting game, and from a coverage standpoint I felt we improved kickoff return-wise. Overall numbers, I just thought that we were a little bit inconsistent," he said. "It was almost feast or famine in terms of our return game. Punt return is something that we need to really step up and do a much better job. We didn't help ourselves with field position in the punt return game, so that's an area. I want to improve in all areas, but that's an area we need to significantly improve in."
The Vikings allowed Mewelde Moore, their leader last year in punt return average at 10 yards per attempt, to leave via free agency. Bobby Wade, who averaged 7 yards on 16 returns, is back and was among the candidates returning punts in OTAs over the last two weeks.
Running back Maurice Hicks, wide receivers Aundrae Allison and Jaymar Johnson and cornerback Benny Sapp all spent time returning kicks during one portion of special-teams work on Wednesday. In previous practices, Adrian Peterson has also been spotted getting limited work returning kicks. Despite his exciting rookie year running the ball and big expectations for this season in that department, Ferraro said Peterson remains an option as an occasional kick returner.
"Coach Childress and I have talked about that. It's always going to be an option," Ferraro said. "Is he going to be the primary returner? Probably not, but he's going to be an option based on what's going on in the game and where we're at, and Adrian's into it, so it's not something we're forcing down his throat. He's been in our meetings already, and he was back there today, and he's an option for us."