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Updated: June 11th, 2012 6:39pm
Zulgad's Roundup: Sage Rosenfels left to wonder what might have been

Zulgad's Roundup: Sage Rosenfels left to wonder what might have been

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Sage Rosenfels was happy to see the success his former New York Giants teammates had in making their run to a Super Bowl title last season, but there were moments when the quarterback did wonder what might have been if things had gone a bit differently.

One such instance occurred as Rosenfels watched Giants holder Steve Weatherford race across the field celebrating after kicker Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard field goal in overtime gave New York a 20-17 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game.

"It was difficult in the sense that I was rooting for them, but every game they won I was thinking to myself ... I could have been the holder in that championship game, because I was the holder, and I could have been Steve Weatherford running down the field and (saying), 'We're going to the Super Bowl,'" said Rosenfels, who is back for a second stint with the Minnesota Vikings.

Instead, Rosenfels finished last season as the third quarterback with the 3-13 Vikings. That put him back with the team that acquired him from the Houston Texans in February 2009 with the intention of having him compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job.

It also continued an interesting journey for Rosenfels.

He never did get that starting opportunity with the Vikings - Brett Favre's decision to end his retirement in 2009 put an end to that plan - and was traded to the Giants just before the 2010 season. Rosenfels served as the Giants' holder that year and before last season he expected the plan to remain the same.

"I was told on the Saturday before the cuts that I was on the team," Rosenfels said. "Then they found something in the MRI that concerned them and they put me on the injured reserve list."

The Giants did so because they discovered a blood infection Rosenfels got after having strep throat. Placing Rosenfels on injured reserve ended his season with the Giants.

In October it appeared he was healthy, so the Giants released him, enabling Rosenfels to pursue employment with another club. He signed with the Miami Dolphins and began practicing in the Florida heat.

That turned out to be a bad idea.

Rosenfels, 34, again did not feel well and doctors found he had mononucleosis. The Dolphins placed him on the reserve/non-football illness list in late October and he left the team. Miami ended up putting Rosenfels on waivers and shortly after the Vikings jettisoned Donovan McNabb from their roster in early December they claimed Rosenfels.

Meanwhile, Rosenfels could only watch as the Giants beat the New England Patriots, 21-17, in Super Bowl XLVI.

"Great group of guys," Rosenfels said of the Giants. "I still talk to them. I just talked to a couple of guys just (last week). It's difficult (to not have been part of it), but I don't have any regrets. I didn't do anything wrong. It's just that things happen in life that you can't always control and I just try to move on."

A different role

Rosenfels finds himself in a very different situation than he was during his first stint with the Vikings.

He signed a two-year, $2.9 million contract in March to remain in Minnesota, but this time there is a clear understanding that he won't be competing for the starting job. That spot belongs to Christian Ponder.

In fact, the assumption is that Ponder and Joe Webb both will enter training camp ahead of Rosenfels on the depth chart. Rosenfels, who says he's feeling fine these days, is now more of a mentor.

"It's been a pretty wild three-and-a-half years," he said. "When I got traded to New York, I really sort of felt that New York was going to be my last team I played for in my career. I was very satisfied with backing up Eli (Manning) as far as working with him and that team. With how the situation was here, I really didn't think I'd be back.

"But getting sick and all those things happening last year, I think it's probably good I made a good impression on people in this building. Coach (Leslie) Frazier, the front office, the way I dealt with a difficult situation in my first year here. I'm happy to be back. I always did like it here. Liked the city, liked the fans, liked the team and the organization.

"It's a place I never wanted to leave in the first place. I made that known at the time to the higher-ups that when Brett came back that second year I didn't want to go anywhere. But that's the way it worked out."

That was in large part because former coach Brad Childress and Rosenfels never seemed to see eye-to-eye on matters. Rick Spielman, who was promoted to Vikings general manager after last season, has long liked Rosenfels and likely never wanted to trade him.

Rosenfels, who has started 12 games in 11 seasons with Washington, Miami, Houston, the Vikings and the Giants, will have his hands full trying to stay sharp with limited reps available in practice.

"I guess just make the most of the reps that I get and be ready to play as much as the team needs me to play," he said when asked about his approach for 2012. "When you prepare in the offseason, physically and mentally, you prepare to play 16 games, whether you're the third quarterback or the first quarterback. I'll prepare like I'm a starter.

"I'm not expecting that to happen. But you never know what will happen in a preseason game with injuries or whatever happens. I'll prepare like I'm going to be a starter."

Helping Ponder

While Rosenfels might prepare as if he could be the starter, he also will be counted on to help Ponder in his development this season.

Entering his second season, Ponder will be expected to make significant strides from the guy who tossed 13 interceptions (to go along with 13 touchdowns) in 11 games (10 starts) last season.

"I try not to say too much to him, but maybe just a thing here or there," Rosenfels said when asked how much he tries to give Ponder advice. "He has an offensive coordinator, he has a quarterback's coach and he has a head coach. So I'm not one of his coaches. But there are certain times, there are certain things that over the years that I've seen that can help a player out that maybe I feel sometimes that is not always said.

"Very small things here and there. ... My job is to get ready to play and perform the best I can. But also my job is to be a team player and help him out. I definitely feel like I do that, but I don't want to overwhelm him because he's got enough voices talking to him."

Rosenfels also makes it clear that while Ponder can get advice from multiple sources, the real key is experience.

"It just takes reps," Rosenfels said. "First you've got to get really comfortable in practice. You just have to have a lot of reps to do that and the games you'll be a little bit more comfortable every time. Over the course of weeks into years you get more and more comfortable.

"I'm sure the veterans in the league that had 100 starts, they rarely think about the crowd or they rarely think about other things, because they are just so into the game. There is no real concern about all the other stuff. I think some young guys, they get concerned about all the other things that are going on that have no impact (on the game).

" ... The hurdle is probably just to clear your mind. The NFL is a whole different world that he grew up thinking about. There's all this sort of buildup and the key is just to go out there and do it and perform and not always worry about the consequences. I see him doing that in practice and at some point it's going to need to carry over to the games. That's all he has to do is just to go out there and actually just perform."

Rosenfels likes Ponder's athleticism, his arm, his smarts and the fact that he's eager to learn but adds, "it's up to him to use those things to his advantage. I do see him doing that. We'll see what happens as time goes on, but I'm optimistic when I see him. The way he works."

Rosenfels admits that Ponder can be a perfectionist and that can make life tough on a guy who plays a position where a short memory is essential.

"Sometimes I tell him, 'You just need to just hose it a little bit,'" Rosenfels said. "Sometimes he maybe tries to be too perfect with the throw and sometimes you just have to let it go. The corners are quick in this game, so you can't try to make the perfect pass. You'd rather sometimes have a little more juice on it. Those are the type of the things that I sometimes try to get across.

"You want to be as perfect as you can, especially individual stuff, but at the end of the day when the team stuff is going on, you have to just play because the game is not a perfect game."

Of course, that is easier said than done.

"It is. Because everything you do in the offseason and the beginning of practice is all about sort of being perfect, but once the team stuff goes on it sort of becomes mass chaos a little bit," Rosenfels said. "So it's hard to stick to your fundamentals, but yet you still have to play the game.

"It's not really like basketball where you always just play. There are different speeds. The early practice speed, there is the seven-on-seven speed, there is the practice team speed and then there is game speed. There's all these things that get a little more and more crazy as time goes on. You have to stick to your fundamentals but also realize there is a game going on, too."

Careful with his words

With talks between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association having broken down, there is a potential the season could start with replacement officials.

This is far from an ideal scenario but Frazier was very cautious when asked about the possibility of the regular referees not being on the field in September when the season begins.

"I'm sure whatever the direction the league goes, it's going to be one that's good for our players, good for the coaches, good for the league," Frazier said. "We really have to trust their judgment regarding that and we'll have to see how it all plays out. But you really have to trust that the league will do the right thing."

White, Taylor at Target Center

Former Iowa State forward Royce White and Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor, who are both from the Twin Cities, are among the potential NBA drafts picks who are scheduled to work out in front of scouts and executives from various teams on Tuesday at Target Center.

Also on the list of players scheduled to be in attendance are New Mexico forward Drew Gordon; Michigan State forward Draymond Green; Oakland University guard Reggie Hamilton; and Seton Hall forward Herb Pope.

The draft is scheduled to take place on June 28.

Gophers new home on way

The groundbreaking for the new Siebert Field on the University of Minnesota campus took place on Monday and the plan is for the playing surface to be completed this fall so the Gophers baseball team can begin practicing and training on the facility.

The design and build team of PCL Construction and DLR Group has been selected to rebuild the stadium. The price tag on the new stadium will be $7.5 million. Monday's groundbreaking came after a June vote by the university's Board of Regents that gave approval for the first phase of work on Siebert.

The new stadium will include a 1,400-seat grandstand with an open concourse, grass seating for picnic-style viewing, an upgraded ticketing area and press box, improved concession and restroom facilities, new lighting, an artificial playing surface, and a new entry plaza.

The 41-year-old stadium where the Gophers had played will be torn down and the new field will sit on about the same footprint.

Target Center to host hockey

It's official.

The soon-to-be renovated Target Center will play host to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's postseason tournament beginning in March 2014.

The eight-team NCHC will start play in 2013-14 and has a five-year deal to hold its semifinals, third-place game and championship at Target Center.

The league will include Colorado College, Denver, Miami of Ohio, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.

The first Big Ten hockey tournament in March 2014 will be at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Gophers will play their final season in the WCHA next season before leaving for the new Big Ten conference in 2013-14.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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