The transition begins for Vikings' Webb

Joe Webb is starting the transition from small-college quarterback to big-time pro receiver. Webb and Vikings coach Brad Childress talked about the transition, the challenges and the progress.

Granted, Friday was just his first day of live action, but Joe Webb's assessment of his move from quarterback to wide receiver? So far, so good.

Webb said that he has been working hard on his own to help make the transition from the starting quarterback at the University of Alabama-Birmingham to wide receiver with the Vikings. Friday was his first opportunity to step out on the practice field to show the coaches how much he has improved since the Senior Bowl and he said he's trying to take advantage of every day he can to make the kind of impression on the coaching staff that he's looking for. Just being on an NFL team is the realization of long-held dream.

"It's a blessing," Webb said. "It's great to have the opportunity to step on the field one more time. A lot of college athletes don't get that chance to put on the helmet again. I'm just out here enjoying the moment and have fun."

Webb's transition is his only focus and, from what he's been hearing from the coaches, he is advancing with more speed than many would have thought possible. He said the Vikings coaching staff is bringing him along to grasp more and more of the offense and his assignments within it and added that he thinks he's making good progress.

"I think it's going well," Webb said. "(Receivers coach) George Stewart is doing a great job with me so far. The more I get repetitions, the more comfortable I'm getting every day."

Head coach Brad Childress said that the transition for Webb is going well, but he is still in what could be viewed as the "baby steps" stage in his progression. He said the preparation for minicamp is something that is expected of young players – to show up in good condition and ready to go – but even that often isn't adequate preparation for the rigors of these camps.

"I like that fact that he understands throwing to wide receivers and routes," Childress said. "He has ‘A' athleticism. You got a chance to see him play (wide receiver) at the Senior Bowl. Since you got a chance to see, and we are all visual guys, you got a chance to see him do some things at the Senior Bowl that would lead you to believe that he can do it at this level. I just think (the biggest adjustment is) probably all the running. These guys run more than they will ever run in their life. Even though he moved around at quarterback, I'm not sure he has run quite that far."

Webb is focused on making the move to wide receiver, but the quarterback in him took a chance to get a little star-struck over the lingering presence of one of the game's all-time greats – Brett Favre. Even though Favre was making news about 1,000 miles away, Webb said that seeing his influence in the locker room made him feel like a little kid who had the reality of being in the presence of a legend. The potential of being on the receiving end of passes from Favre, whether in a game or in a practice, brought a big smile to Webb's face. He admitted for a moment on Friday morning that he wasn't just a player, he was a fan, and the thought of pulling in a pass from Favre would be the culmination of his football life.

"That's a big-time dream right there," Webb said of catching passes from Favre. "I've been watching Brett Favre since I was a little boy. When I saw his locker, I just got excited. I was just standing there checking it out. I'm just looking forward to meeting the man and learning from him."

Webb isn't sure if the Vikings are going to incorporate him into Wildcat formations, but said that given Childress' background as an offensive innovator, he wouldn't be surprised to see something done in that regard. Childress would have good reason to consider it. Webb was the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Most would think that would be something that could go to a guy's head – setting a record that nobody in the history of the college game has ever accomplished. Not only isn't Webb bragging it up, he was unaware of what he had accomplished until after the 2009 season and, in the process, displayed the lack of personal ego that could go a long way to helping his chances of making the 53-man roster.

"I didn't even realize I had done that," Webb said. "After the season, somebody told me I was the first person ever to date. I was like, ‘Man, I wasn't planning on running for 1,000 yards two years in a row.' But I had to do what I had to do to help the team. I'm a team player."

Webb's jump from behind center to outside the hash marks is even more impressive when you ponder that he wasn't even considering playing wide receiver in the pros until the weeks leading up to the Senior Bowl. While there had been some buzz that his best chance of making it in the NFL could well be tied into a position change, he said he was so focused on helping UAB win games that he wasn't looking beyond the season, and most of the coaching staff didn't complicate things by telling him of his perceived future.
"There was a little talk of that during my senior year, but not as much as there was after the season," Webb said. "They told me I would probably have a better chance at receiver. I just accepted the challenge and I putting in all the work that I can do to try to succeed at that position also."

Webb said he is improving with each passing day and hopes that his comfort zone will continue to increase as his work with the coaching staff continues. He has made a lot of progress, but is the first to admit there is still a long way to go if he will realize his dream of making the 2010 Vikings.

"I can't let up a bit," Webb said. "There are only so many spots on a roster and there are 50 guys here today. The numbers tell you that a lot of us are going to be gone at some point. I'm working harder every day because I don't want one of those guys to be me."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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