His body healed (mostly) and his heart filled (totally), Tarvaris Jackson appears set to resume his role as the Vikings' starting quarterback Sunday at Chicago.
Jackson made it through a physical practice Monday at Winter Park, saying his strained groin feels "good enough" to return after a two-game absence. The breakthrough came a week after he met his newborn son, Tarvaris II, during a five-day trip to his homes in Alabama and Mississippi.
"It was great timing [for the bye week]," Jackson said. "I got a chance to rest up, and I got a chance to go back home and see my son. It turned out to be a good deal to get the extra week of treatment in. So it feels good right now."
Jackson hasn't played since suffering the injury Sept. 16 at Detroit. Coach Brad Childress will make the final judgment on his status later this week, but Childress appears eager to get Jackson back on the field.
"I would like to," Childress said. "I would like to. I just have to see how he responds [to Monday's practice]."
Childress' enthusiasm reflects an organizational eagerness to resume its evaluation of Jackson, the Vikings' presumptive quarterback of the future. Amid widespread belief that he needs substantial development time before he is a reliable NFL starter, Jackson threw five interceptions in this season's first two games and has a 40.0 passer rating.
The Vikings' unwavering commitment to him, as well as an uneven two-game performance from backup Kelly Holcomb, placed a renewed emphasis on getting him extensive -- if not exclusive -- playing time for the remainder of the season.
To illustrate that point, receiver Robert Ferguson looked over at a group of reporters Monday. As they interviewed Jackson, Ferguson said with mock drama: "He's baaaaaaaaack."
Jackson said he is "pretty comfortable" but acknowledged the leg is not fully healed. As of Monday, he said he is still waiting "to get my burst back" but knows NFL players are rarely in 100 percent physical condition.
"I probably don't have all my speed back," he said. "I'm a little sore. But, pretty much when the game comes, the adrenaline is flowing more, so I probably won't even be thinking about it. ... It's not 100 percent, but it should be good enough for me to go out and play and do what I need to do."
More than mobility, however, Jackson will spend this week getting re-acquainted with teammates who are in midseason condition. In essence, Monday represented Jackson's first football activity in 22 days.
Jackson was worried enough about the layoff that he made arrangements to work out with his former trainers at Alabama State during the bye week. After rehabilitating at Winter Park last Monday and Tuesday, Jackson departed Wednesday for Mississippi to meet his son.
Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman supplied the Alabama State staff with Jackson's exercise routine, and Jackson himself added some on-field work at the school to begin testing the injury.
"I'm just trying to get my rhythm back," he said. "I've been out almost a month now, and I wasn't doing too much. ... I was kind of worried about it coming into this week. Quarterbacks, we have to pretty much do everything and I wasn't doing that. What I was doing wasn't full speed. It wasn't live bullets.
"So it was good for me to get back out there."
Sunday, Jackson will return to the scene of his NFL debut last season -- a four-pass performance after starter Brad Johnson was benched and backup Brooks Bollinger was injured. Jackson noted the coincidence but said he's simply happy to return -- against any team.
"It's been kind of hard on the sidelines, watching and not doing much," Jackson said. "You still try to be the best teammate you can be, and try to learn at the same time. But I love playing football, so I'm eager to get back."