The fun returns for Jackson

Tarvaris Jackson said he put too much pressure on himself to start the season. With a chance to redeem himself in the second half Sunday, he returned to having fun and looked like a quarterback with a solid future. And that future just might include this coming Sunday. See what Jackson and coach Brad Childress said about the situation on Monday.

Tarvaris Jackson admitted Monday to a number of mistakes from earlier in the season and a wide range of emotions as he has made the transition from being a starter to being a backup that barely saw the field in three months to a player that led his team to a come-from-behind victory that they needed to stay in first place in the NFC North.

It's been a wild ride for Jackson from Week 1 to Week 14 in the NFL season.

After recording an 0-2 record to start a 2008 season filled with high expectations, Jackson was benched in September. Vikings coach Brad Childress said at the time that Gus Frerotte would be the starter for the rest of the season, and Jackson said last month that he believed he just wasn't aggressive enough, too concerned with making mistakes.

"I think I kind of took the fun out of myself earlier in the season, trying to be so serious, trying to be perfect," Jackson said Monday. "That's not how I play. I go out there and just play and have fun. That's what I did (Sunday). I tried to have fun, be smart, make smart decisions, make quick decisions."

"… I put too much pressure on myself to the point where it kind of hindered me and stopped me from being who I was as a football player. There's a reason why I got benched. Now I just go out there and have fun."

The result was one of Jackson's best games in just over one half of work. While starter Gus Frerotte struggled with two interceptions and 70 yards passing in just less than a half of work, Jackson had 105 yards, one passing touchdown and a 143.8 passer rating, the best of his career – all without getting many first-team snaps during the previous week of preparation.

In retrospect, Jackson thinks being thrown into the game without time to ponder the possibilities may have helped him.

"You know what, it's kind of like my first start. It was a short week, my rookie year against Green Bay on a Thursday night. We just played on Sunday. I (hadn't) really had time to think about it. I just went out and played. That's kind of like the same situation. You just feel good getting out there. It's not like I've never been out there," he said.

It's possible Jackson will be back out on the field soon, but Childress said if Frerotte is healthy enough he will be the starter again on Sunday when the Vikings play the Arizona Cardinals.

"That's what I expected," Jackson said. "Gus has done a great job leading our team this year. I don't expect any different. I just did my job, just being a backup and continuing to help the team win. That's what I was supposed to do. Guys don't expect anything different when I come in, being I have been a starter, they don't expect anything less."

Frerotte hurt his lower back while making the tackle on his second interception against the Lions. Per his usual protocol, Childress wouldn't get into specifics with the injury, but he admitted that Frerotte was "very sore" on Monday and that the team would be "day-to-day" in seeing how quickly the 37-year old would recover.

"Tarvaris did a great job. A great, great job," Childress said. "We just want to see who will give us the best opportunity to win and obviously health will be a factor in that. We all know that the backup quarterback is usually the most popular guy, although early on I'm not so sure that that would have been the combined assessment here. But whoever gives us the best chance to win when we get to later in the week (will start).

"(Jackson) certainly played with confidence and was about his business. He was precise in what he did. You didn't see a whole bunch of inaccuracy; you didn't see extra steps. He knew exactly what he needed to do against what he needed to do it against, and that's what you want. We talked early about any indecision or things like that – you've got to let those things go. So I thought he did a great job in terms of his preparation, and obviously getting it on the field."

Childress summoned Jackson to his office on Thursday, and Jackson said that was the first time the two had talked extensively since he was benched.

"Him being the head coach, he's got so many things going on, we never had a chance to talk about it and have a one-on-one about it. But it was good to air things out – me, all my coaches, air things out between us and talk about it. I know they knew it was hard for me. They know what type of guy I am. They know how I love football, and they knew it was a different situation for me," Jackson said.

He didn't seem bothered by the amount of time that passed between his benching and their talk last Thursday.

"It's a lot going into being a head coach. He's got a lot going on," Jackson said. "He's got 60-some kids to look after, kind of. Coaching. Games. I didn't really expect him to sit me down and talk to me. If I wanted to talk, the door's always open for me to go in there and talk. But me being the type of person I am, that's not really my personality. I pretty much keep things to myself, kind of bottle everything in. But it was good, though. You got to get that stuff out of the way."

Ironically, and maybe fortunately, that talk came three days before Jackson would get his most extensive chance to prove he's learned from sitting and watching. He said he wondered every day since he was pulled away from the starting duty if he'd ever get that chance again. He thought about it first thing every day he walked into Winter Park.

"Obviously, when I got benched I was frustrated, angry – you name it. Anything to do with that," he said. "I've been playing football for a long, long time. Then when someone takes you off the field, you're kind of angry. But since Day One, I've used it as motivation to get better.

"It's been hard. I wasn't 100 percent behind it, like, ‘OK, I'm fine with it.' No. But, it's been a hard situation, and I got to take it and run with it now. I can't really dwell on it. It's in the past. I have to use it to get better."

In just over 30 minutes of football on Sunday, it appeared he has gotten better.

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