QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson among those who want to prove they belong
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- McLeod Bethel-Thompson never has been happier not to get a phone call than he was on Friday.
The lack of activity on his cell phone meant the first-year quarterback from Sacramento State had survived the final cuts and secured a spot on the Vikings' 53-man roster.
Not bad for a guy who has paid his dues with stops in the Arena League with the San Jose SaberCats and spent time with the Dennis Green-coached Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League in 2011.
"No news is good news, so I got no news, which was exciting," said Bethel-Thompson, who was kept over veteran Sage Rosenfels and will open the season as the Vikings' third QB behind Christian Ponder and Joe Webb.
"Obviously, I waited through the whole process, through the weekend, until I got back here to really know that you're here. I'm really excited to get this thing going."
With general manager Rick Spielman turning over and rebuilding the Vikings' roster, the 24-year-old Bethel-Thompson wasn't the only guy who managed to overcome the odds and earn a spot on the opening-week roster.
Seventeen of the 53 players kept by Spielman and company have appeared in six or fewer NFL games in their careers.
The non-rookies who make that list include Bethel-Thompson (zero NFL games); running back Matt Asiata (zero); defensive end D'Aundre Reed (zero); wide receiver Stephen Burton (three); linebacker Tyrone McKenzie (three); right guard Brandon Fusco (three); tight end Allen Reisner (six); and safety Andrew Sendejo (five).
Interestingly, the Vikings did not have one undrafted rookie free agent make the roster.
"I just want to show (my) teammates what I can do and gain their trust on the football field and with the football," said Asiata, who led the Vikings with 134 yards rushing on 23 carries in the preseason.
Sendejo, who played in two games with the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 and appeared in three games with the Vikings last season after signing in late November, edged out veteran special-teams ace Eric Frampton.
"Both of those guys (Asiata and Sendejo) you have to tip your hat off to, particularly Matt," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Monday. "When you consider he was here with us a year ago, didn't have an offseason. (It) really took a little time for him to catch on to what we we're trying to do a year ago.
"We kind of stayed in touch and brought him back and his confidence, having an offseason, really helped him tremendously. When he got in the ball game he showed why he deserved that third running back spot.
"Andrew, what he did on special teams, it's hard to ignore. He did a great job every time that we lined up in the preseason and he worked extremely hard at our practices as well. He shows some things as a backup safety that you're looking for if you're going to keep a guy on the roster as a backup."
That was a big factor in Sendejo's favor considering Frampton struggled nearly every time he was given a chance at safety.
The decision to retain Bethel-Thompson and not try to get him through waivers was an interesting one. It meant the Vikings were willing to jettison 34-year-old Sage Rosenfels, who had the best numbers (17 of 25 passing, two touchdowns, 122.9 rating) of the Vikings' quarterbacks in the preseason.
Rosenfels had received $500,000 guaranteed when he was retained during the offseason and was a favorite of Spielman's.
But Bethel-Thompson's arm strength intrigued the Vikings, as did what he showed during the preseason when he completed 18 of 36 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
His 57.9 passer rating was nothing to brag about, but the Vikings also felt his long-term potential was too great to let go with a rebuilding roster.
"I like his arm strength that shows up, he has accuracy, but his command is one thing that really got all of our attention," Frazier said. "Going all the way back to (Organized Team Activities) and doing the things that we did back in April, he has some confidence and some swagger about him.
"You like to see that in young guy, and he has some talent to go along with that. He has some things that you'd like to try to develop over time and see where he ends up going."
Bethel-Thompson, who spent last preseason with the San Francisco 49ers and the final two weeks of 2011 on the Dolphins' practice squad, said he never thought about how difficult it might be to win a spot on the roster and beat out Rosenfels.
"You can never worry about the numbers," said Bethel-Thompson, who began his collegiate career at UCLA before transferring to Sacramento State for his final three years. "All the way from the beginning of camp I was never concentrating on the numbers, that's something that a player can't control.
"I try to control what I can control, which is my effort every day and my hard work and doing the extra (things) and preparing myself when I do get those reps to perform and show the coaches what I have. That's what I try to control is my effort every day."