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Focus now turns to Jackson and Rosenfels

McClatchy News Services

Sage Rosenfels said he feels as if he’s back where he started.

With the Brett Favre saga finally over, Rosenfels enters Vikings training camp knowing he will compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting quarterback job. And that’s what Rosenfels expected when he arrived in a trade from the Houston Texans this offseason.

This point was reached by a circuitous path.

"It was unique circumstances, and I guess I am just excited to have a chance to compete for the starting job, which is again why I came here," Rosenfels said. "That’s really enough for me. ... I guess I’m just excited to go to work and work to be the starting quarterback here."

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Several Vikings players admitted they were surprised by Favre’s decision. Kicker Ryan Longwell played with Favre in Green Bay for nine seasons and remains friends with him, and the two exchanged text messages after Favre made his decision public.

"I just know how he is, and nothing is done with him until it’s done," Longwell said, "and at the end of the day, after wearing a Packer helmet all those years, could he really put on a purple helmet? (That) would be totally different than putting on a Jets helmet. I just didn’t get the feeling that it was ever 100 percent, just knowing how he is."

Even though the Favre talk will follow them into camp, several Vikings players did their best to publicly put the matter to rest Tuesday night.

"I feel like I don’t have time to be disappointed right now," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "Literally, I’m throwing it out of my mind. I’m not thinking about Brett Favre anymore. We have to move on. You can’t move forward if you’re thinking about the past. That’s the past to me. We’ll move on with the people we’ve got. We’re not worrying about Favre. We’re not worried about none of that stuff anymore."

Favre’s decision to remain retired is certain to disappoint a segment of fans as the Vikings begin reporting for training camp in Mankato today. The future Hall of Fame quarterback would have made the Vikings a popular Super Bowl pick and brought a national focus to a team that boasts arguably the NFL’s best running back in Adrian Peterson, an elite defense and six returning Pro Bowl players.

Now that Favre is a no-go, the Vikings say they will attempt to accomplish the same goals with either Rosenfels or Jackson as their quarterback, even if there is less buzz surrounding the defending NFC North champions now.

"The pieces are still in place," wide receiver Bernard Berrian said. "I think we made strides this past offseason and we’re going to continue to get better."

Offensive lineman Artis Hicks said he understands fans will be disappointed because of all the attention and speculation that has swirled around the team the past few months.

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"When I went home (to Tennessee) the past five weeks, that’s all my family and friends were asking me, ’Is Favre coming, is Favre coming, is Favre coming?"’ he said. "So I kind of got caught up in it a little bit. But until that guy is in the locker room, you can’t hang your hat on it."

Instead, the Vikings now must turn to either Jackson or Rosenfels to lead the offense. The team might need to privately address any hurt feelings or frustration for its pursuit of Favre. Specifically, several players reportedly texted or called Favre in recent weeks to try to persuade him to play, including Peterson and Jared Allen.

Rosenfels seemed unconcerned by their recruiting efforts.

"I had followed that, but I don’t know if those guys were told to send those text messages or not," he said. "It doesn’t really matter ... either way I think it’s a rare circumstance where one of the top three or top five quarterbacks of all time was thinking about coming out of retirement and playing. I don’t think it changes anything about how guys feel about me from the work I put in all summer."

Several players echoed that sentiment, saying they are confident either quarterback can do the job.

"I think the biggest thing with whoever steps into that huddle, whether it’s Tarvaris or Sage, we have to rally around him and support him," Hicks said. "That’s going to make more difference than anything any coach or anybody can say. I think that’s going to be huge for the guys in the huddle. How we treat those guys and welcome them and make them feel like they are our quarterback, because they are our quarterbacks."

There were several reports recently that Jackson would ask for a trade if Favre joined the team. Shiancoe said he doesn’t expect any fallout or problems inside the locker room.

"They have to know that it’s a business and they have to handle it like professionals," he said. "It’s part of the business. It’s nothing personal. It’s just part of the game."

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Longwell said he’s happy for the quarterbacks that the saga didn’t drag into camp.

"They know what’s ahead of them now," he said. "This is a situation where ultimately we’re all (destined) to be replaced in this league, and it either makes you wilt or it makes you strive and excel. So we’ll definitely see which way it goes with Sage and T-Jack. Same team we had all offseason and at the start of OTAs that we’re going into training camp with. So at least there is closure."

Rosenfels and Jackson will resume their competition starting Friday. The soap opera is over. Now it’s back to the original plan.

"I think that we’re going to battle every single day and I think that’s going to make both of us better," Rosenfels said. "I think we all have a common goal as a team and it’s one step at a time and competing is going to make all of us better. I think that’s going to make the Minnesota Vikings better."

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(c) 2009, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.startribune.com

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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