EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – When Brett Favre arrived at training camp for the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, third-string quarterback John David Booty graciously gave him his jersey number.
Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, who spent all summer competing for the chance to run this offense, were a little more begrudging in handing over the starting job.
“It’s not a good feeling, but you have to take it for what it’s worth and try and get better from it,” said Jackson, who was hoping to assert himself and live up to the label of quarterback of the future he received when coach Brad Childress drafted him in 2006.
It may be even more difficult for Rosenfels, who spent the first eight seasons of his career as a backup in Washington, Miami and Houston. When the Texans traded him to the Vikings this off-season, the 31-year-old thought he was finally getting a chance to be the man.
Now he’ll have to take a seat on the bench, again.
“It’s something that wasn’t a total shock,” said Rosenfels, who had a strong pre-season debut when he completed 10-of-13 passes and led two scoring drives against the Colts on Friday. “Obviously this has been three months in the ongoing sort of thing. So for me personally, this wasn’t what I was hoping for. I tried to get traded here and got traded here.
“But in my nine years this is the best football team I’ve ever been on. We have so much talent. If the team needs me this year, when the team needs me this year, I’m going to be ready.”
Linebacker Ben Leber had nothing but sympathy for two veterans he watched work so hard during the most gruelling part of training camp as they tried to assume control of the team. He wasn’t sure if either player could be consoled at this point.
“I don’t know what you say to them,” Leber said. “It’s hard to sit there and say, ‘Hey, keep competing.’ I think it’s pretty clear who is going to be the No. 1 guy. I guess you have to compete for No. 2 and it will figure itself out.”
Childress sat down with all three incumbent quarterbacks on Tuesday morning before going to the airport to personally pick up Favre. He said it was “a hard conversation to have” with them all after only three weeks ago telling them they were moving on without Favre.
“But our game is about competing,” Childress said. “Just like I told our team today again, whatever position you’re at, you’re fighting for the 53 spots on this football team. You make a huge mistake to count the number in lines or how many are we going to keep.
“The fact is we’ve used a couple of quarterbacks every year I’ve been here from an injury standpoint. I think those guys will keep their eye on what they need to do.”
When the possibility of Favre joining the Vikings first arose earlier this off-season, there were reports that Jackson would request a trade.
“I never said that,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I never said anything like that at all.”
Rosenfels, who has missed two straight practices with a sprained right ankle, was a little more coy when asked if he would seek a trade.
“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about that,” Rosenfels said. “I’m just trying to get my ankle fixed right now. It’s feeling pretty good for the most part but just trying to get that right. I haven’t even really thought about that stuff.”
Favre also could have to smooth things over with some of the veterans who reported to camp on time, were spurned by him initially, then spent the next two weeks sleeping in those uncomfortable dorm beds at Minnesota State University, Mankato and enduring two-a-day practices.
“Brett Favre is a different player. He’s a Hall of Fame player,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. “He can kind of stretch the limits a little bit. No hard feelings. He’s here. It is what it is.”
For his part, Favre said he’s ready to start getting to know his teammates and will ease into a leadership role when the time is right.
“Even though I’ve played a long time and been around and played against a lot of guys and played under a lot of coaches and against a lot of coaches, you still have to earn the respect of this team,” Favre said. “What you’ve done in the past is great, but it means nothing here. … You earn the respect of these guys and that’s what I intend to do.”