Jackson, Rosenfels explain their approach

While the world waits on a Brett Favre decision, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels can't afford to assume anything when it comes to the Vikings' quarterback position. They talked extensively about their approach to the offseason and dealing with the saga that is Favre.

It likely came as no shock to anyone, but for the 60 or so players taking part in this week's OTA session at Winter Park, there was as many questions about a player who isn't there – Brett Favre – as those who are.

At the center of fielding those questions were the same two players standing in the long shadow cast by a player of Favre's specter – Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. A year ago at this time, neither was fielding questions about Favre. He had just asked for his release from the Jets and, while speculators began looking at the possibility of Favre coming to Minnesota, neither Jackson nor Rosenfels was giving it much thought. They had been told they would be competing for the starting job and that every OTA, minicamp or training camp practice counted as part of that process.

This year in May, the line of questioning was different. Much different. Most of the questions dealt with Favre and understandably so. There remains a strong expectation that the old gunslinger will mosey into Winter Park shortly after training camp breaks, but, with no definitive word one way or the other, Jackson and Rosenfels are approaching training camp with the same point of view – get the team ready for the 2010 season, whether it includes Favre or not.

"I'm just trying to get better – take the next step," Jackson said. "That's pretty much everybody's mindset out here now. (We're) just trying to get better and not really worrying about who's not here – just worrying about ourselves."

Rosenfels said he's making the best of the situation, which was difficult for him since the Vikings traded for him early in 2009 and he spent the entire season inactive as the No. 3 quarterback. He has yet to take an official snap with the Vikings, but said he's doing his part to accept his situation and mentor the young receivers looking to make an impression on the coaching staff that can help jump-start their own NFL careers.

"At this point, obviously from (the situation) last year, you can't control everything," Rosenfels said. "What I can control is myself and how I work and how I can help the young guys out here. I love it, because some of the (young players) just eat it up. I've seen practice squad and undrafted guys who have 10-year NFL careers – like Greg Lewis. You want to help them out. They're trying to live a dream too."

Being in the middle of a quarterback question is getting to be all too familiar for Jackson. When he was drafted, the first question was when would he replace Brad Johnson as the starter. When he was handed the job in his second season, injuries knocked him out of action three times. After a slow start in 2008, he was benched in favor of Gus Frerotte, only to win the job back when injuries broke Frerotte down. When Favre joined the team last year, Jackson won the battle for the No. 2 spot and, as it sits now, enters the minicamp/OTA season as the No. 1 QB. It's becoming old hat for T-Jack not to have a solid grasp on what his future holds.

"I've been going through this the last three or four years now, so I'm kind of used to this approach," Jackson said. "I'm basically worrying about myself and trying to get better. That's all I can do."

While training camp is still more than two months away and the season doesn't get kicked in for real until summer is winding down, Jackson said there are things to be learned at this point of the calendar year.

"It's the little things," he said. "It's going to be different when the bullets start flying and everybody gets here. But right now, just worry about little things and work on things I feel I need to get better at."

Rosenfels said that, while the circumstances are different, the method by which the results are obtained remains the same. To be good in January, putting in the extra work in April, May and June are part of it – at least for those who haven't taken 20 years of pounding at the NFL level. Rosenfels built a strong rapport with Favre last season and there was a good chance if both of them were in the locker room at the same time, Favre would be breaking down a play call or game situation. This time of year, Rosenfels joked, he and No. 4 aren't chatting each other up very much, so it hasn't changed his routine in his second year of OTAs that much from the first year.

"(Favre's) not in the locker room as much this time of year," Rosenfels said with a laugh. "Last year at this point, he wasn't really on the radar. It was coming out here and competing and trying to get better every day in the film room and the practice field. He's not here right now, so that's my approach this year."

When Favre was signed, head coach Brad Childress admitted that the only people who wouldn't like the signing would be Jackson, Rosenfels and John David Booty. In many ways, he was right, but Jackson said his demotion on the depth chart hasn't changed the way he's approaching the offseason program.

"I always prepare like I will be the starter," Jackson said. "You should. Regardless of whether you're the starter or not, I take the same approach, as if I was the starter. I'm just trying to get better each day. That's the same approach I'm going to take now."

Jackson's frustration is understandable. He continues to prepare for the season, but, in the back of his mind, realizes that if Favre-a-palooza II makes a return engagement to Minnesota, he will be pushed back into a supporting role. As a professional, he understands that it is part of the business.

"I (have) nothing to lose, really." Jackson said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm going to have to live with it now, if I'm here. I've been through so much the last couple of years, it's kind of like, 'Everything happens for a reason.' I'm not giving up on anything, but just let it play how it's going to play, because you can't control it. If I had control and I had my choice on how things were going to happen, I'd be the starter, I wouldn't have had all those injuries, I would've never got benched, all that stuff. So sometimes you can't control it and sometimes you can, and right now I can't control it."

The buzz inside Winter Park during the 2009 season was that Jackson made big strides in his reserve role, learning from the master of the West Coast Offense at work and applying some of the things he witnessed into his own game and practice regimen. While Rosenfels and Favre had more of a "discuss and explain" relationship, Jackson said he picked up more by observing what Favre does and how he reads defenses.

"Watching someone of his caliber in our system helped me out a lot," Jackson said. "I feel like I've gotten better just by watching him. He helped me out a lot – not really pulling me to the side and just talking to me. I told him I learned better by just watching him. And that's what I did."

It was clear that both backups are mindful of their position and, while they likely don't share the fervor everyone else on the team – much less the frenzied fans – have about the pending Favre decision, it became pretty obvious that both are conducted their own business and preparing as though Favre won't return and the torch will be passed to one of them.

"I don't think about (Favre) as much as you guys (in the media) do," Rosenfels said. "I'm not trying to be selfish about it, but I'm trying to work on my own game, because that's what I can control."

The irony of their situation wasn't lost on Rosenfels, who said the media fascination with Favre is something he hasn't experienced before, joking, "For grown men, you guys think about another grown man way too much."

Until word filters up from Mississippi, Jackson and Rosenfels will continue business as usual. When asked if he has an opinion on whether Favre will return or not, Jackson said he has formulated an idea – one that seems to be shared by many of his teammates.

"Yeah, I do," Jackson said with a smile. "I'm not going to share it, but I think everybody has their feeling – and I think everybody is pretty much on the same page."

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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