At Saturday's practice, Bobby Wade showed up to the practice field a few minutes late. As he ran by the reporters on hand, he joked, "Mark me off your list. I'm still here. It's going to take a lot to get rid of this guy" – accentuating the last remark with two thumbs pointing down at his familiar No. 19.
While said with a smile, Wade knows that he has become a name whispered as being in a fight for a roster spot. Despite leading the team in receptions the last two seasons, Wade said he has never felt overly confident that he's a lock to make a roster. He learned that lesson the hard way with the Bears and Titans, two teams for which he played, but organizations that weren't willing to invest money in a long-term deal.
As Wade sees it, in the world of pro football, you're only as good as your last big play and anyone can be traded or cut.
"I've never felt like my position has been solidified on a team," Wade said. "This is my seventh year and every year we draft guys and add new guys. I just try to play a role. Whatever they want me to do, I'm willing to do it. However much they want to put on me, I can handle it. I've been used a little more the last two years than what was expected of me when I came over to the Vikings. I'm just excited I'm playing. If I'm contributing 60 plays a game or 20 plays, I want them to be quality plays."
Wade said one of the biggest problems receivers face is uncertainty at the quarterback position. Timing on passes, especially for a slot receiver like Wade, is critical. A fraction of a second can make the difference between throwing a touchdown and having a pass picked off and returned for a touchdown. Having to learn the habits of Sage Rosenfels, Tarvaris Jackson and John David Booty isn't easy. Keeping the Brett Favre discussion kept to the side, having questions at quarterback can be a problem for even the most veteran of receivers.
"It is difficult," Wade said. "You try to find a rapport with one of those guys. It's a lot more difficult if you're dealing with two or three guys. But that's the nature of the business. We have to find a way to match up with Sage, John Booty and Tarvaris."
Although Wade has found a way to be successful with four different starting quarterbacks over the last two years, he is always facing challenges from young, fast receivers who can do a lot. Since 2007, the Vikings have drafted Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and signed Bernard Berrian as a free agent. Wade has been able to carve out a role with the team, but is always looking over shoulder. He knows the young receivers he befriends are looking to take his job. But he said he's prepared to be a role player and make the most out of the opportunities when they arise.
"In my past, I found you just keep it natural," Wade said. "There are enough footballs on this team to go around. Not only that, somebody's value to the team isn't always measured on how much they do, but on the quality of what they do. If it's 20 plays and I catch four balls or one ball that's a big play as opposed to playing 60 plays and only catching three or fall balls, it's all relative."
Wade said he's more than willing to teach the younger players, even players like Harvin – who many believe will take away much of Wade's thunder in the slot.
"A guy like Percy, I see him as an extremely high-level player in this league," Wade said. "Whatever I can teach him, I want to give him every opportunity to succeed. This is my seventh year and it's his first year. I would expect that he would do the same as he plays longer in the league."
While the Vikings have struck a youth movement at wide receiver and have hit hard and often over the last two years to make it a position of strength, Wade said he's not ready to give up his spot in offense – at least not without a fight.
"In the end, it's a business and teams make decisions based on the business side of things," Wade said. "All I know is that I feel great and I'm ready to give whatever I can to help this team win games. We're going to win a lot of games. I want to be part of that and I'm willing to do so by contributing in any way I can."
Wade won't go easy
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