Tarvaris Jackson is entering his fifth season in the NFL and he's fully aware that even fifth-year veterans don't get the same privileges of a certain 20-year veteran who will be in the Hall of Fame five years after he retires.
Vikings coach Brad Childress has said repeatedly that there is no manual for how to best handle the increased flexibility he's willing to offer Brett Favre. Childress, other coaches and even teammates say they understand if Favre isn't at training camp in Mankato. He's earned that right after 19 years and especially after his performance during his 19th NFL run.
On the field, Favre has also commanded another set of rules.
"He's a proven guy. Automatically he's going to get more leeway than any other guy," Jackson said. "I don't expect to get the same leeway as him. It's a different approach, the way he plays. And watching him play has helped get me better."
Favre and the coaches insist that he isn't making as many full-fledged audibles as it may seem to those watching from the stands and in front of TV sets. A subtle route adjustment here or switching a running play from one side of the line to the other is where Favre's experience has been a boon to the Vikings offense.
"He sees things a little differently. There aren't too many guys that have been in the league 19 or 20 years. He sees things faster. He sees things that (other) guys don't see," Jackson said.
The addition of Favre helped elevated Sidney Rice from a solid receiver to a Pro Bowl receiver, helped make Percy Harvin the Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL and was a big factor in tight end Visanthe Shiancoe catching the most passes and touchdowns of his career.
Although Jackson won't be afforded the same privileges of Favre, he has learned something from watching Favre play and it meshes with the advice Favre gave to Jackson.
"Last year, he told me, ‘Watching you play, you have the talent. Just let it go. Just play.' He was right. I kind of was thinking out there too much," Jackson said. "I remember everything I'm told about every play, so it's kind of like I'm thinking about it and I'm hearing my coaches in my head sometimes. They (the coaches) feel like if he's wrong, he's going to (still) make the play happen. If you're making plays, there's not too much they can say."
Nearly everyone expects that Favre will return for his 20th NFL season and his second with the Vikings. Why wouldn't he? He took the team to the NFC Championship, gained the respect of his new coaches and teammates, had fun and put up the first 100-plus passer rating of his career.
Still, no one can be completely certain – including Jackson, who is trying not to let the uncertainty affect his preparation for the season – of Favre's return.
"Just play my cards. Whatever cards I'm dealt, just try to do the best with them. I always take the approach that everything happens for a reason, even if I don't agree with some of the stuff or how things happened in my career so far," he said. "I feel like God has a plan. I'm just going to sit back and let it take place."
God may have his plan, but there are a lot of uncertainties for those who can't see into the future. Jackson is on a one-year contract after being tendered as a restricted free agent. Next year, his free-agent status could be up in the air because the NFL and its players union don't have a collective bargaining agreement beyond the 2010 season.
Jackson said a long-term contract wasn't part of the discussion this offseason, but, just like this offseason, his future is full of uncertainty.
"We really didn't talk (about a long-term contract)," he said. "Honestly, we really didn't talk too much about it. Everybody pretty much knew by it being the business that it is that restricted was going to be a one-year tender. There wasn't too much we could do. It was the cards in their hands."
And with Favre as the ace in the hole who can trump anyone's call, there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to Jackson.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Favre garners special privileges
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