Webb back at quarterback

The Vikings had a plan to play sixth-round pick Joe Webb at receiver, until they saw him throw at the end of rookie camp. Now the college quarterback is working as a pro quarterback and giving a good showing.

The Vikings are taking a pass on Joe Webb at receiver … or at least taking a quick timeout at the start of organized team activities.

Webb, the team's sixth-round draft pick, is back under center at quarterback – a position he played throughout college but wasn't sure he would have an opportunity to work at in the NFL.

Webb went to the Senior Bowl week of practices in January and made the transition to wide receiver, a position in which his athleticism impressed Vikings personnel. But after watching him throw instead of catch during the final day of practices at rookie minicamp, Webb is back at quarterback.

"In rookie camp they wanted to see me throw some," Webb said. "I threw a couple balls for them and they liked the way I threw. Over the break they told me they wanted me to play quarterback when I come back for the OTAs."

That's what he's been doing in the first two OTA practices this week and it sounds like that's the plan for the foreseeable future.

"He processes very quickly. I don't know long term in three practices, but we are going to continue on with repping at the quarterback," head coach Brad Childress said. "It's not like he is going to play quarterback on one play and go out and play wide receiver on the next play. We are trying to get him immersed in the system."

"He has an aptitude to be a quarterback. We went and drafted him as an athlete. … He knows what he's doing back there as a quarterback."

Webb is more than OK with the opportunity he wasn't sure he would get. In fact, he says it "feels great" to be working at quarterback, where he impressed during his collegiate career at Alabama-Birmingham.

Last year, he won Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year by throwing for 2,299 yards and 21 touchdowns and running for 1,427 yards and 11 scores. He became the first player in NCAA history to throw for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. In 2008, he threw for 2,367 yards and 21 TDs, and ran for 1,021 and 11 TDs.

The Vikings have been working on his mechanics to be sure they are up to NFL standards, but so far he has been pretty impressive for a guy that most pegged as a wide receiver at the NFL level. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he has the frame for either position.

He also has the athleticism for receiver, jumping over seven blocking bags in an increasingly popular YouTube video filmed earlier this year while he was working out at Competitive Edge Sports in Atlanta. They kept stacking the bags and Webb made the jump that was captured on video.

"I wasn't expecting to get that big. We were just messing around. They did see my athleticism there," Webb said of the Vikings. "They thought it would be good to bring me in."

Now he needs to prove he can handle the mental part of game at quarterback. That could be the most difficult part of the transition.

"It's like a dictionary," he said of the playbook. "You pick up a dictionary, you see all type of words. But once you get it down pat, it's just like you come from high school to college. It's coming around."

Webb came to Minnesota thinking he might have the chance to catch passes from Brett Favre. Now he could have the chance to learn more about the quarterback position from Favre if the 40-year old returns for a 20th NFL season and Webb is still working at quarterback.

"Even when I got drafted, the first thing I thought about was, ‘Man, Brett Favre's going to be there,'" Webb said. "It's like a dream come true. But we'll see what happens. If I'm at receiver or quarterback, we'll see as time passes."

Webb calls quarterback his "natural position," patterns his game after Vince Young and said he can throw the ball 70 yards. But, more importantly, right now he just needs to show them he can handle the transition mentally. Physically, he's already impressed the coaches from his legs to his arm.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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