EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Tarvaris Jackson is carrying himself with the command of an NFL starting quarterback. The question for the Vikings is whether this confidence will translate to touchdowns.
Jackson's chance to show he's able to bring Minnesota's offense to a level of competency has begun. He'll start on Sunday afternoon in the season opener against Atlanta.
In the two games Jackson led the huddle at the end of last year, teammates noticed a rookie who was a little unsure.
``Now, man, he's running that thing like a 10-year vet,'' said guard Artis Hicks. ``I'm proud of him.''
It's interesting that the first game is against the Falcons, whose trouble with Michael Vick following federal dogfighting charges has dominated recent NFL news. Vick's ability to move the ball with his feet was unparalleled among his peers.
Even though the Vikings don't feature Jackson as a runner, the potential to pose the same type of dual threat to defenses is there.
``Whatever they call me. Whatever gets the job done,'' Jackson said on Wednesday. ``If it's me running for 100 yards or if it's me passing for 200 or 300 yards, I'll just do it. Whatever the defense gives me, I'm going to take it whether it's running or passing. So they can label me as a runner or a pocket passer. It really doesn't matter.''
He's certain to see plenty of blitzes, given his inexperience and the lack of standouts at receiver on this team. That could provide most of his opportunities to take off with the ball, because the Vikings prefer to save their running plays for Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson.
The message from the Vikings is Jackson doesn't have to be Vick or Randall Cunningham. He also doesn't need to be critical of his performance each week.
``I think you have to have patience with the guy,'' Vikings coach Brad Childress said. ``You understand there is going to be bumps in the road, things that he hasn't seen before. It's really more about how he deals with those things and moves forward.''
By all accounts, Jackson has done all the right things, even though he still must prove he's ready for to be a starting quarterback. He sought Peyton Manning for advice about playing the position last week, a brief conversation arranged by defensive coordinator and former Indianapolis assistant Leslie Frazier. He also built respect and trust with his teammates with the amount of time he spent at the practice facility during the offseason conditioning program.
``He's the leader of the team,'' receiver Troy Williamson said. ``We're following him. Whatever he needs us to do, we're here for Tarvaris.''
Notes: Though Hicks and tackle Ryan Cook have been listed first on the depth chart all summer, the right side of the offensive line was not set when the preseason ended. Childress declined to reveal his lineup Wednesday, but Cook said he was told he'll start. Hicks deferred the question to Childress. ... Linebacker E.J. Henderson missed Wednesday's practice due to an illness. Backup safety Mike Doss was also out with a calf injury that has sidelined him for more than two weeks.

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