Preseason Poker Face Is In Season

It's only the preseason, but Vikings coach Brad Childress is in full poker-face mode when it comes to the possibilities of Tarvaris Jackson playing on Saturday. Childress might not know until just before the game if Jackson can play, but it remains to be seen if he'll disclose a decision if one is made before then.

It seems only appropriate that the 2008 World Series of Poker is being shown on TV every week. When it come to Vikings head coach Brad Childress, he is truly wearing his poker face when it comes to the status of QB Tarvaris Jackson heading into the most important game of the preseason Saturday vs. Pittsburgh.

In the past, Childress has been cagey about injuries, refusing to tip his hand so opponents have to game plan for two possibilities – one for the starter and another for the backup. But Tuesday at Winter Park, Childress wasn't letting anyone know his hand and, according to what he said, he isn't sure himself.

Childress said his plan all along was to give Gus Frerotte some snaps with the first-term offensive line and skill-position players. The intent was to let Jackson go the first half Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers and give Frerotte a couple of series on the third quarter. Now it appears as though Frerotte may be getting much more playing time … or will he?

Childress maintained essentially the same stance that he had Saturday in Baltimore – that Jackson's injury isn't overly serious and that there is the potential that he can still play against the Steelers. Jackson, who took part in portions of practice wearing a brace on his right knee, hasn't been ruled out of Saturday's game and that determination may not come for a couple of days or even up until game time.

The portion of Tuesday's practice that was open to the media involved only stretching before the team's afternoon practice. By the team the media was allowed to return at the end of practice, Jackson was nowhere to be found – a second straight day in which the quarterback hasn't commented on the severity of his injury, his progress (if any) and his potential to play Saturday. Coincidence or part of the Childress poker face?

Jackson missed four games last season due to three separate injuries, none of which were related to his current condition. In each of the three occasions in which he went down – with groin, thumb and concussion injuries – he missed at least one game each time. If history tells us anything, it would be likely that Jackson would miss at least one game. But, if that's the case, Childress isn't saying and Jackson isn't around to tell us himself.

So, once again, the waiting game begins. If possible for T-Jack to play, this would be the best test of where the offense is at. At the same time, risking further injury if Jackson isn't 100 percent in a preseason game doesn't make much sense. So the question now becomes this: Will Childress bluff for the remainder of the week and fold his hand on Saturday or go all-in with T-Jack? The guessing game continues.


  • In a related story, John Clayton of ESPN reported last night that not only will Jackson miss the Pittsburgh game, but will be held out when the Vikings travel to Dallas next week as well.

  • Bernard Berrian, who sat out last Saturday's game at Baltimore, continues to be bothered by a turf toe injury on his right foot. Berrian missed most of practice Tuesday, taking part in only some of the drills. No timetable has been set for his return to the field and he is a question mark for Saturday's game with the Steelers.

  • The team allegedly had big plans for TE Garrett Mills, who caused something of stir when it was learned that Bill Belichick called Childress before the final cut-downs and specifically asked him not to take Mills, because the Patriots wanted to slide him through to the practice squad. The Vikings took him anyway and intended for him to have a bigger role in the offense. That plan was scuttled in the early days of training camp this year, when Mills suffered an ankle sprain when he got his legs tangled with Madieu Williams in the end zone on a pass play. He has participated in only a few practices since and has missed the first two games. Childress said his progress remains slow. Mills can run fine in a straight line, but still experiences pain when he makes a cut. Any chance he had of supplanting Visanthe Shiancoe in the starting lineup for the regular-season opener is all but gone at this point.

  • Wide receiver Sidney Rice missed practice for a second straight day with a stomach virus. Last week Matt Birk was sidelined with a similar virus.

  • On the subject of centers, John Sullivan remained out of practice for a second day Tuesday as he recovers from a concussion.

  • Offensive tackle Marcus Johnson, who has been sidelined with a knee strain since the preseason opener with Seattle, returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since being hurt in the game.

  • Veteran receiver Joe Horn, who was released by the Falcons Tuesday, allegedly has contacted all 31 other NFL teams about any interest in him. Early indications are that the most interest would be from St. Louis, Dallas, Miami, Tennessee and Jacksonville. There is apparently little to no interest being expressed from the Vikings.

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