Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte, who was 8-3 as a starter last season until he got hurt and was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson, is signed for next year, but he says it is up to coach Brad Childress whether he is back or not.

"A lot of people say, 'Why wouldn't you want to go back there and, if you're not starting, just stand there and watch?' but it's not about that for me," Frerotte said. "I played a lot with those guys, so I can still play."

He has not heard from the Vikings recently.

"Nobody expressed any of that to me, so who knows?" Frerotte said. "This season was left kind of uneasy and up in the air.

"I think there is a roster bonus coming in March. We'll see what happens with that. ... I'm not real worried."

Frerotte said he only expects to improve because of his greater familiarity with the offense.

"I was only in the offense for six months, so I should get a lot better with another year under my belt," he said. "I think I've earned the right to be a starter. It wasn't handed to me. I went in and played well and gave everything I had to the team."

Frerotte signed a two-year, $3.75 million contract with the Vikings. He knows there might be other quarterback options in the free-agent market, but some of them would be expensive.

"I think some of them come with a high price tag," Frerotte said. "Do you pay all that money for Matt Cassel in New England?"

Frerotte believes the Vikings can go a long way next year.

"We have the pieces there," Frerotte said. "We just have to see what happens. I think every year teams lose key players. It's whether you can keep those core guys around and keep adding little pieces here and there."

If Frerotte comes back, he not only can lead the Vikings to another division title and farther, but he can do a great job, along with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers, to help prepare Jackson for a good career.

Need to protect ball

The Gophers men's basketball team lost 68-63 at Penn State on Saturday. They have been blown out only by Michigan State. They lost the close game at Ohio State, too (64-58), with the same types of errors they made Saturday.

"We've got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "We'll go back and work on some things. We thought we worked on some things in practice, as far as not dribbling, putting pressure on guys, learning how to pivot, jump stop, pass.

"But it was called pretty close [Saturday], and when you're on the road, that's not a good thing if the game is being called that close, to be honest with you. There was something like 10 walks or travels called during the game."

Smith also was unhappy with inconsistent application of certain rules.

"One of the rules I think we're going to have to look at is, when a guy comes down with the ball and he falls, they call it a travel," Smith said. "They called that yesterday. Then one of their kids fell and we thought it would have been a travel. So, when I said that we'll look at it at the NCAA level, they'll change a rule like that. In the NBA, if the kid rebounds the ball or comes down with the ball, he can fall and still retain possession of the ball. But it's little things like that we're not doing."

Smith said the Gophers have outrebounded their past three opponents. "So we can correct one thing and then something else happens," he said.

Smith said Devoe Joseph did well in the second half, hitting a team-record-tying seven three-point baskets and scoring all of his 23 points in the second half.

"He was outstanding," Smith said. "His mom had come in from Toronto, along with his sisters, some other family members. They had a large contingent.

"He's been playing better. He's more of a natural shooting guard than a point guard. And that showed."

Smith said the Gophers didn't get the ball inside well or create enough free-throw opportunities for themselves against the Nittany Lions.

"We only shot four free throws in the second half, after shooting about 10 in the first half," he said. "And we didn't get into a 1-and-1 until there was only about 20, 30 seconds left to go in the game. That was a problem, because we really didn't get the ball inside. Just little things like that, that we didn't get the job done."


John Clayton of ESPN speculated Sunday that the Vikings are trying to sign free agent Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said he would not have any interest in Brett Favre if he was released by the Jets and available. "I would have been interested 15 years ago," Wilf said. "No, I'm not interested. No way. I think he's done well, he retired, it's good. He's a great guy. I'm just happy that we don't have to keep on facing him."

Jimmy Gjere, the outstanding Irondale all-around athlete, is a junior in school and hasn't committed to Minnesota, as reported here Sunday. What is accurate is that he is one of the top-recruited football players in this area. Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa are recruiting him hard. Gophers coach Tim Brewster recently visited him. ... It's a good bet the Gophers spring football game will be played at the University of St. Thomas.

One of the highly ranked rookies the Twins are bringing to spring training this year is Steve Tolleson, the son of former major league infielder Wayne Tolleson. He can hit, according to Twins General Manager Bill Smith. "We've worked hard on his defense, trying to make him a better defensive player," Smith said. "You know the emphasis that [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] and the coaches and this organization -- going back to [former manager] Tom Kelly -- put on being able to play defense. And we try to tell kids in the minor leagues, if you can't play defense at a high level, you're going to struggle for playing time in the big leagues.

"Steve Tolleson played his way onto that [spring training] roster. He was kind of a bubble guy, and he went to Arizona [Fall League] and he hit [.383]. We can always try and find room for a guy that can hit."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at