MINNEAPOLIS -- Tarvaris Jackson's career path found plenty of bumps and cracks in Minnesota, from injuries to inaccuracy to that near-indefatigable veteran who famously came along and squelched his opportunity with the Vikings.
Whenever the NFL lockout ends, Jackson will be a free agent in more ways than one.
He will not only be able to sign with any team and renew his quest to become a reliable starting quarterback, but he finally will be out from under Brett Favre's 41-year-old shadow.
Well, most likely.
Favre has insisted he's retired for good, but most of those around the game are waiting for more proof that the league's all-time leading passer is indeed done playing.
"I think he is, but I don't know if he thinks he is," Jackson said, smiling.
This is the time of year when Jackson is accustomed to facing all those questions about Favre, having endured such speculation the past three summers while trying to figure out where he fit with the Vikings. When this calendar coincidence was pointed out to Jackson on Tuesday, the 28-year-old let out a hearty laugh.
"I ain't got to answer that stuff no more," he said. "Last year was kind of expected that Brett was going to come back. I didn't want him to, but he kind of surprised us at the end -- at least he thought he surprised us. But I learned a lot from him."
Jackson has been working out at the University of Minnesota with a group of NFL players and hopefuls, organized by Minneapolis native and Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald. Jackson's home and family are in Alabama, and he has been trying to sell his suburban Minneapolis house, but he said he plans to be a summer regular in Minnesota no matter where he winds up.
Jackson said he wished he had been able to establish himself with the Vikings, even raising hope of an eventual return: "You might see me back here in a year or two."
Jackson said he enjoys being recognized around town and spoke warmly of his time with the Vikings, despite those forgettable games when he was booed at the Metrodome and the frustrating experiences of losing his starting spot.
"I probably wanted it to end here, but it doesn't always happen like that," Jackson said. "I understand they're going in a different direction right now, and that's fine. That's how it is. I'm not bitter. I'm not mad. I'm kind of excited about the change."
Jackson's agent, Joel Segal, expressed eagerness for free agency to start.
"Tarvaris has developed tremendously over the years, and just by backing up Brett Favre, he has become a more-savvy veteran," Segal said. "I expect a team to sign him very quickly, and I'm looking for Tarvaris to go to a club and compete to be a starting quarterback."
That's the way his client has framed his approach, too.
"If you go in thinking you're a backup, the next thing you know, you're out of the league," Jackson said, adding: "My confidence kind of wavered a little bit here, but you've got to make sure you keep it. If I tell any young quarterback one thing coming into the NFL, 'Through the ups and downs, make sure you keep your confidence.' "
The Vikings have moved on, too. They had gone 12 years without taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft -- and then grabbed Christian Ponder from Florida State at No. 12 overall in April.
As Jackson slowly walked out of the building Tuesday, another workout in the books, he reminisced about the past few years and winced as he shook his head about how close the Vikings were to the Super Bowl, that overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship Game still fresh. In fact, he just saw the game replayed on TV the other day.
Despite the Vikings' pursuit of Favre and what that might have said about their faith in Jackson, he had nothing but positive comments about the experience -- "we had a lot of fun," he said -- of playing behind the veteran.
Jackson looked up, smiled and, almost to himself, mused about reconnecting with his now-former teammate.
"I'm going to have to give him a shout," he said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press