Vikings quarterback Jackson expected to return from injury

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Tired of more insipid offense toward the end of last season, the Minnesota home crowd shouted for someone different -- "We want Jackson!" -- during one December defeat.

Well, Vikings fans, get ready for Tarvaris Jackson again this week. Sidelined for the last two games due to a pulled groin muscle, Jackson is expected to return Sunday as the starting quarterback at Chicago.

"I probably don't have all my speed back. It's a little sore. But pretty much when the game comes, the adrenaline will be flowing, so I won't even think about it," Jackson said.

He has a lot of work to do with a still-struggling passing attack that's mostly responsible for his team's 1-3 start. Following a much-needed break in the schedule, the Vikings returned from their bye weekend for practice at Winter Park on Monday afternoon.

Jackson took some of the snaps with the first team, and he appeared ready to resume the job that Kelly Holcomb took over while he was hurt. Coach Brad Childress said he rotated the quarterback repetitions in practice as a precaution due to the length of the workout.

He stopped short of declaring Jackson the starter.

"I would like to. I would like to. Again, I just have to see how he responds," Childress said.

Jackson must show he can bounce back without much stiffness, soreness or hesitation for the next practice on Wednesday, but in his mind he passed a critical phase in the recovery.

"I was kind of worried about it coming into this week, because it's been three weeks and you know quarterbacks, we have to pretty much do everything full speed, and the stuff I've been doing wasn't full speed," Jackson said, adding: "It was good to get back out there and do things live."

The bye week clearly came at the right time for this team, giving the raw, intriguing prospect extra days to heal. It also provided Jackson an opportunity to travel home to Alabama and see his newborn son for the first time. He said his first child, Tarvaris II, was born on Sept. 14.

With one more person to impress, Jackson is eager to make up for the memory of his last start on Sept. 16 at Detroit. He threw four interceptions in a 20-17 overtime loss.

"Not just proving to everybody else, but proving to my teammates and coaches that I'm not going to go out there and have four turnovers," he said.

Through 20 games with Childress in charge, the Vikings have yet to throw for more than 270 yards in one contest. Without any standout receivers, even as rookie Sidney Rice emerges, the natural assumption is that this team's passing attack - and, thus, chance of winning this year - is beyond repair.

It could very well be, but Jackson just hasn't had enough of an opportunity to perform. There remains an unknown, and that's the best hope for this season's team.

In 2006, Brad Johnson was having one of the worst seasons of his 16-year career, and frustrated fans cheered the change when Childress sent Jackson in late in the third quarter in a loss to the New York Jets.

Jackson was awful in his first start, amid wet, cold and windy weather in Green Bay. He was OK in that meaningless season finale as well as the opener this year. Then came the Detroit game, followed by two offensive clunkers for the Vikings with Holcomb under center.

"We do great between the 30s -- moving the ball, rushing the ball, passing the ball -- but we've got to really smell the blood when we get in the red zone and really try to take shots when we get an opportunity to get six and not three," receiver Bobby Wade said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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