MANKATO, Minn. -- The starting quarterback job was again his to seize, but Tarvaris Jackson didn't exactly jump for joy.
Brett Favre's decision to remain retired rocked the Minnesota Vikings and returned the competition to Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, but when his buddies checked in with him after hearing the news earlier this week Jackson surprised them with his lack of excitement.
"It wasn't a celebration as everyone was trying to make it. I just tried to come out here and work hard, regardless of who is here," Jackson said Friday after Minnesota's first training camp practice.
Drafted in the second round in 2006 as a fast, strong but raw prospect from Alabama State, Jackson has had plenty of growing pains over his first three seasons.
The fact that the Vikings tried again to replace him wasn't as hard for him to handle as outsiders might believe, even though the chance of him being traded or even released grew with each phone conversation between Favre and coach Brad Childress.
"He's got pretty good calluses built up," Childress said. "You get that way as a quarterback. It's high highs and low lows, and usually the highs aren't as high as the lows are low. But you've got to be able to take that. ... He lets it roll pretty well."
After regaining the job from Gus Frerotte, Jackson played as well as he has his entire career last December.
He struggled in a first-round playoff defeat, though, renewing the urgency for the Vikings to finally solve their problem at the sport's most critical position. The overt interest in Favre, a likely Hall of Famer but a soon-to-be-40-year-old, underscored the team's shaky faith in Jackson.
"I use every little thing I can to try to motivate myself," he said, referring to the Favre back-and-forth. "It was nothing I could control. It was kind of out of my hands. I just have to do my part."
Jackson played with the first team while the Vikings worked out in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts Friday morning at the Minnesota State University campus in Mankato. There were several off-the-mark throws throughout the session by all of the quarterbacks, but it was the first practice after all.
Conclusions, assertions or assumptions should rarely be drawn before August -- let alone September. Jackson probably had the best pass of the morning during a one-on-one drill, connecting with wide receiver Sidney Rice for what likely would've been a 65-yard completion for a touchdown.
"He just laid it right over the top, and I ran right into it," Rice said.
For now, until or unless the Vikings start an early season winning streak and settle in at the top of the NFC North, this is how it will be in the wake of Favre's decision to stay home. Every throw will be scrutinized, and Minnesota's passing game will constantly be watched -- probably moreso than in Childress's first three seasons.
"I just take it as if I have to prove myself anyway," Jackson said.
Rosenfels has seemed less at ease with all the speculation surrounding the team's high-profile pursuit of the NFL's career leading passer and all the questions about his feelings that came with it. The Vikings confirmed their interest in Favre a little more than two months after the trade with the Texans for Rosenfels was consummated, an unsettling development for a native Iowan excited to compete for a starting job with the closest NFL team to where he grew up.
After Friday's first practice, Rosenfels bristled a bit during another round of Favre-related queries from reporters.
"The more you guys stop asking questions," he said, "the less I'll have to even worry about it."
Though at 31 he's five years older than Jackson, Rosenfels has started only 12 games in his career -- eight fewer than his counterpart. He also is still learning the Vikings' system in which Jackson enters his fourth season.
"I actually feel real comfortable with it," Rosenfels said. "There are a lot of similarities between this offense and my last offense in Houston.
"I feel confident with what we do, and I have confidence in the players."
Those teammates, at least publicly, have expressed the same sentiment. Now it's up to Jackson or Rosenfels to take the job and prove they're worthy of that support. For Childress, there's no rush to choose his starter.
"It's important to establish a No. 1 quarterback, but right now it's not important to establish who is looking over whose shoulder," the coach said. "It's a competition in nature."
He added: "Competition is a good thing."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press