Halfway through minicamp, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are splitting reps pretty evenly and each is having his good and bad moments.
"I think what we're doing is trying to keep the reps even, number one," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "And it's important, as (head coach Brad Childress) pointed out many times, that we get them with the first offensive line and with the first receiving corps. Both of them, you'll see them both flipping, whether it's one start the first team period, the other one starts the next team period. And just to make sure that the reps are even, and they're getting a fair shake. It's always tough if you're the second guy, always taking second reps, you're always behind the second line, second receivers, so it's important to make sure they're both getting the same solid reps."
Jackson opened minicamp on Friday taking most of the first-team reps. During Saturday's first practice, Rosenfels was the starter. And it will likely continue to flip from one to the other as minicamp moves into next week's organized team activities.
Rosenfels showed some veteran savvy early in the morning practice getting multiple defensive linemen to jump offside with a hard count (he later had rookie offensive tackle Phil Loadholt commit a false start with a similar hard count).
"I think he's done a nice job," Bevell said of Rosenfels. "First of all, he's done a good job of just coming in and just picking up the offense. I think he has the luxury that he's been in a similar system down in Houston, so some of the verbiage is not new to him and he was able to pick that up as well. And just manage the game. That's what we're asking our quarterbacks to do – protect the ball and not turn it over."
But Bevell seemed most impressed with Rosenfels' leadership qualities.
"I think a little bit more with some of the off-field stuff. I like how he's gotten around the guys. Shoot, I know he's been to dinner with probably 10, 15, 20 of the guys. So he's trying to make himself accessible, he's trying to get to know the guys, he's trying to find his niche on the team. And that's some of the stuff that I like," the offensive coordinator said.
Bevell admitted Jackson has had a tough few years with the Vikings since being a second-round draft choice in 2006. He's been declared the starter and pulled multiple times, and he enters minicamp admitting that he's in a 50-50 proposition to win the starting role. If he is able to do that, it won't be because it has been handed to him.
"If you really step back and look at what he's been through, he's been through a lot," Bevell said. "Whether it's his first season, the No. 3 (quarterback), not getting many reps and then all of a sudden you're starting the last two games. And then you're starting and you get hurt. And then you're starting and you get pulled. So he's been through a lot. I think he's handled himself admirably through the whole thing, in all the situations he's been through, and he's a fighter. I think he wants to own the team and he wants to be good."
Jackson wasn't deadly accurate throughout the day, but he did make some impressive throws, like a 35-yard strike to Jaymar Johnson down the right sideline with good coverage, and a 30-yard pass to Sidney Rice down the right sideline. He also had a pass or two batted down, but that's part of the inconsistency that has kept him from putting a stranglehold on the starting spot.
For now, it is a 50-50 proposition on which quarterback will win the job.
"I think Tarvaris is doing a great job. He's never going to give things up easy. He's out there fighting. He's competing. He's protecting the ball. He's making big throws, big plays, so I think he's doing a good job," Bevell said.
SATURDAY MORNING PRACTICE NOTES