Tarvaris Jackson was wearing a pair of shorts with a Vikings logo on them Tuesday and working out on the University of Minnesota campus. But that was only because the NFL lockout has prevented the quarterback from finding a new employer and his friend, Larry Fitzgerald Jr., had set up a place for him to practice.
After going through drills on an outdoor field at the Gibson Nagurski Football Complex, Jackson made it clear that while he's not bitter, he is looking forward to getting a fresh start away from Minnesota and the expectations that followed him from the day the Vikings made him a second-round pick in the 2006 draft.
"It's probably time for a change," Jackson said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to play up here the last five years. ... [But] I'm not trying to be a backup. I'm trying to go somewhere where I have a chance, and I don't feel like I'd get that chance here. It's time to move on. No hard feelings or anything. It's a business."
Jackson said after the 2010 season that he felt a change might be best, and the Vikings clearly agreed with him. The team did not extend him a contract tender before the lockout began -- he likely will be an unrestricted free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement -- and then drafted Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder 12th overall in April.
That pick did not receive unanimous praise from Vikings fans, leaving Ponder in a situation with which Jackson is familiar. Jackson knows all about hearing dissatisfaction from the locals, having been booed on several occasions in the Metrodome.
"Since Day 1, I don't really think I was really welcome here anyways, because nobody really knew who I was, being from a smaller school," Jackson said when asked to reflect on his relationship with the fans. "A lot more things probably play into it, too. It's just the way things are. I can't help that."
Asked to elaborate, Jackson said: "Just the way things happened, like the way I was thrown into there, the way where it was me or Brett [Favre] or all this stuff. Just a lot of different things played into it that kind of soured our relationship. Fans are going to be fans."
Former coach Brad Childress, who was fired in November of last season, was the driving force behind drafting Jackson out of Alabama State, an NCAA Division I-AA school. Jackson was 10-11 in 21 starts with the Vikings, including playoffs, and threw 24 touchdown passes with 23 interceptions.
"It was up and down. It was kind of a weird relationship," said Jackson, who has not spoken to Childress since the day he was fired. "I felt like he was backing me, but sometimes it was kind of hard to think that. He just was doing his job the way he felt like he had to do it. Even some of the things I didn't like that he did, I just had to respect that if he's the head coach and if you're going to do it, you're going to do it your way."
Jackson, who finished last season on injured reserve after hurting a foot in December, looked to be in excellent condition as he went through drills and threw passes during workouts that involved several NFL players and were organized by Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' standout wide receiver, and his longtime workout guru Bill Welle.
A year ago Jackson took part in the same training but did not appear to be nearly as fit. "Last year it was rough for me after the 4th [of July]," he said. "I told myself, never again. I just tried to start early this year."
While Jackson hopes for the best, he admits he has no idea where he might land and knows it won't be easy to find a situation in which he can compete for a starting job. But he is looking forward to the challenge.
"This reminds me of me transferring from Arkansas to Alabama State," Jackson said. "Like [I have a] sour taste left in my mouth. It really, really motivated me to try to get to the NFL, and it really motivated me to try to be the best. I think this situation, the ways things happened here, it adds a lot of fuel to the fire."