MINNEAPOLIS -- Sage Rosenfels is the guy who took the early lead in Minnesota's quarterback competition last summer with a strong performance in the first preseason game.
Then came Brett Favre.
Rosenfels wasn't expecting to slip to third string after signing a contract extension through the 2011 season worth $9 million. But he did. And he was the only player on Minnesota's active roster all season who didn't appear in a game.
The only lasting image of Rosenfels' first year in purple was classic backup form -- with a cap and a clipboard.
The devastating overtime defeat in the NFC title game in New Orleans was painful even for the players on the bottom of the roster. But the on-field success during the season was still fun from the sideline, and Rosenfels was able to watch the NFL's all-time leading passer at work, taking plenty of mental notes.
"I learned a ton from Brett: the way he played, the way he prepared and the way he thinks about the game," Rosenfels said. "I think the way Brett sees the game is different than most people. It's hard to describe, but to see the way Brett sees it and see how he plays it is something that I'll never forget."
The late interception Favre threw in Sunday's game was costly, giving more fuel to his critics, but Rosenfels adamantly defended his performance against the Saints. In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Rosenfels also reflected on the bond that developed between Favre and the team after his sudden arrival after training camp.
He insisted it wasn't awkward for him or fellow backup Tarvaris Jackson, that their respect for Favre and his desire to win grew quickly once they got to know him.
"We saw something really special," Rosenfels said. "In that last game, he fought like I'd never seen anybody fight. That was amazing. Then you throw in the fact that he's 40, nine years older than me, and that was almost incomprehensible."
While Favre decides whether to return for a 20th NFL season, Rosenfels and Jackson are in limbo again -- just like they were last summer while Favre was deliberating.
Rosenfels is using the same line he used back then: He isn't concerned about what he can't control. He said he hasn't thought about requesting a trade, either.
Earlier this week, coach Brad Childress expressed a desire for continuity at quarterback, but left open all options.
"I'm sure we'll ably man that position one way or another," Childress said.
So while Favre heals and tries to make up his mind, Rosenfels will get back to working out for next season.
"He's going to do what he's going to do, and I'm going to get prepared and take some time to be the best football player that I can be," Rosenfels said. "We were all drained by the end. I can only imagine how mentally and physically worn out he must be."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press