After taking first-team reps during Tuesday's spring practice, Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold approached a lectern and quipped to reporters, "I haven't done this in a while."

Darnold, the former No. 3 overall pick with the New York Jets, is happy to be back in the saddle. But he's embracing a new role as a seventh-year journeyman holding the starting job temporarily ahead of first-round rookie J.J. McCarthy. Darnold could start Week 1 for the first time since 2021, and said his focus is twofold: becoming a more consistent player and mentoring the team's new franchise quarterback.

"It's just how it goes, right?" Darnold said Tuesday at TCO Performance Center. "There's a lot of businesses where you can be in your business for 30-40 years, and the NFL I think the average is like 3-4 years. It's a little bit different. Going into my seventh year now, even though I still am young, I do feel like a vet and just being able to help guys — not only J.J., but help any young guys in the locker room that need anything, I'm always happy to help."

Darnold took every first-team rep during Tuesday's practice, the first spring session open to reporters. Nick Mullens and McCarthy followed in that order. None of the quarterbacks threw to receiver Justin Jefferson, who remains absent from voluntary workouts amid contract negotiations, or tight end T.J. Hockenson, who is recovering from January knee surgery. After this week, Darnold will have three practices logged with receiver Jordan Addison and tight end Josh Oliver, among others.

"Everyone's working really hard," Darnold said. "I'm sure Justin's out there working hard as well."

Before they practiced together this week, Darnold said he and McCarthy attended a Timberwolves game.

"I was like first of all, dude, congratulations on getting drafted," Darnold said. "It's a great experience and I know it flies by. … Obviously getting drafted that high, the pressure comes with it. I feel like he's already been there [at Michigan]. This is obviously the next level, but any questions, anything he's curious about … I've been answering. Just going to continue to have that bond."

The Vikings have liked what they've seen so far from Darnold, whose passes have stood out in throwing sessions when contact and shoulder pads are not allowed. He's had early retention of the Vikings playbook, knowing similar concepts from spending last season in the 49ers' West Coast offense, according to offensive coordinator Wes Phillips.

"The other thing you see with Sam is the arm talent," Phillips said. "That gets thrown around a lot, but he was the third pick in the draft for a reason and we've really seen it show up out here really since Day 1."

Darnold, who has thrown 63 touchdowns to 56 interceptions in 66 NFL games, intends to use this Vikings opportunity to display his growth.

"Not turn the ball over and put the ball in play," Darnold said. "Let those guys catch the ball and make plays and run. … Continuing to stack good weeks on good weeks throughout the season is kind of my goal."

Center Garrett Bradbury is already familiar with his new quarterback. Bradbury met Darnold a few years ago, the last time Darnold started a season opener in 2021 with Carolina. His starting center was Pat Elflein, a former Vikings draft pick and a mutual friend.

"I've never really known his football skills, and seeing him out here he can spin it," Bradbury said of Darnold. "Some of the throws he's making, it's fun to see. It's just going to take time to learn the system, the ins and outs of it. It's not an easy system in my opinion."

Bradbury said Darnold and McCarthy are both fortunate to have a full offseason to learn the offense. Coaches are starting from the basics and going "A to Z," Phillips said, after previously having more challenging spring installs for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Bradbury said he's open to helping Darnold, McCarthy or whichever quarterback is starting by taking on more of the pass protection adjustments that were handled by Cousins.

"At the same time, a different opportunity for me," Bradbury said. "Kirk ran the show, he was the leader, he was dialed in on everything. Maybe this can put a little bit more on my plate, helping out the quarterback a little bit more, a little bit of ownership in that department."