Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson missed two preseason games with a knee problem. As a result, he missed a lot of valuable practice time. Then came Wednesday's decision after opening the regular season with two losses that Gus Frerotte would replace Jackson as the starter against Carolina on Sunday.

"You know, nobody wants to really blame it on any type of injury -- I don't think he does either," said Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "There was a point where he was playing very well for us, I thought he was competing hard, and it just came down to you need to make the plays that were there.

"Gus has done a nice job. He's come in, he's picked up things well, he's practiced hard, he's competed hard. I think he was a good resource for Tarvaris, and now it's just going to give him an opportunity."

Does this change mean that Frerotte is the quarterback for the rest of the season?

"Well, I think it remains to be seen," Bevell said. "Like what I told Gus: You just need to make the plays that are there, be able to throw and catch and get the ball where it's supposed to go."

Will there be some changes in offense, perhaps more long passes?

"I'm sure there will be some subtle differences, but for the most part the things will be the same," Bevell said.

There was no talk about starting Frerotte against the Packers in the opener, nor against the Colts last week, Bevell added. The decision for Sunday's game was made Tuesday.

"It was one that we talked about, just trying to look at the best interest of the team and what's going to help us move forward," he said. "We had a chance to win both of them, but the bottom line is we didn't, and that's what we're measured on."

The last chance Frerotte had to start, he led Miami to a 9-6 record (he missed one game), the last winning season the Dolphins have had. They won six games in a row at one point with him as the quarterback. He is 2-0 in his only stint as a Vikings starter in 2003.

Frerotte is a great leader, very smart when it comes to reading the defenses, and even at age 37, he has as strong an arm as most quarterbacks in the league. He will be a winner for the Vikings.

Bevell expects a tough game with Carolina at the Metrodome.

Gophers improve

Eric Decker, who Gophers football coach Tim Brewster calls one of the great receivers in the country, talked about how he and quarterback Adam Weber work together.

"I think being a leader on the offense, I think everyone has that mindset," Decker said. "He wants to get the offense going, and he's a playmaker. And I'm trying to help him out and do the things I can to make this team successful."

Decker said he thinks the team is a lot more athletic than last year. That will have to show itself if the Gophers are to beat Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

"I think all-around we're more athletic, we're making plays. The defense is stepping up, playing fantastic," he said. "The offense, we have some drives where we stop ourselves. I think we need to fix that stuff up. That said, I thought, like Coach Brewster probably said, we've got a lot of things to tune up. ... We definitely need more balance -- for football you need a 50-50 pass/run to keep the defense on their toes." The Owls narrowly defeated the Gophers 42-39 last year in Miami.

"Our attitude this year is to not overlook anybody," Decker said. "Because with the year we had last year, we struggled, and I think it doesn't matter who the team is, we just go out and play our game.

"We've got some different schemes, trying to get everybody involved. I can't tell you a number, but we're just trying to move the ball around, move myself around, and get some open areas for all of us."


One person not surprised to see Denard Span develop into not only a fine outfielder, but a good hitter, is Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra.

"He had speed and great hand-eye coordination," Vavra said, recalling their first meeting in instructional league. "He had a lot of energy and was coming in with a fresh face every day ready to learn and get better. So, a high school kid with those types of attributes and tools -- boy you come to the park looking forward to working with him. That's kind of what we did. He's just gotten better and better every year. ... There's no question he is going to be a great player."

Vavra's son, who is an outstanding hockey and baseball player, will attend Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin this fall.

Eric Dungy, son of Colts coach Tony Dungy, is playing receiver and defensive back for Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., and is considered one of the area's top recruits.

Quarterback Tyler Thigpen, the Vikings' seventh-round draft choice in 2007 who was claimed on waivers by the Chiefs, was named the starter this week. He was 14-for-33 for 151 yards with one touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Raiders. The Vikings had tried to put him on the practice squad before he was claimed.

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said Brewster and track coach Steve Plasencia are teaming together to recruit good track athletes who can also play football.

Former Gophers defensive end Greg White recently signed a two-year extension with Tampa Bay that gives him more security and substantially more money, keeping him with the Buccaneers through 2010, the St. Petersburg Times reported. White -- who stands to make $2.5 million under the deal, according to agent Jack Bechta -- led Tampa Bay with eight sacks in 2007 and has 2 1/2 this year.

Kaley Viola, the daughter of former Twins pitcher Frank Viola, is a member of the Winthrop University volleyball team, which will play in the Gophers tournament this weekend. The Gophers play Winthrop on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Former Gophers receiver Ernie Wheelwright was retained by the Ravens on their practice squad. ...A trio of former Vikings linebackers -- Lonnie Warwick, Roy Winston and Wally Hilgenberg -- were reunited when Winston and Warwick traveled a long way to see their teammate, who is ill with Lou Gehrig's disease.

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