There’s a saying football coaches like to use this time of year whenever they’re asked about players and their prospects of making the final 53-man roster. “The more you can do…,” they’ll say, meaning the more ways a “bubble” player can help the team the better chance that player has of earning a spot on the roster.
It’s an appropriate reference when discussing
Exactly how the team elects to use Webb remains to be seen.
“Ah, you never know the plan with me, man,” Webb said. “Coming out of high school, recruiting guys wanted me to play receiver, quarterback, safety. So I just go with the flow.
“Whatever helps the team. I want to get a Super Bowl just like everyone else, and I think Minnesota is a good fit. And I'm going to continue to work hard.”
Just going with the flow has been a pretty good strategy for Webb up to this point. It’s his versatility and raw athletic ability that attracted the Vikings to Webb in the pre-draft process back in 2010. And those two traits have kept Webb on the roster since then, despite the fact he hasn’t quite found his true niche in the NFL yet.
There’s another quality of Webb’s that has aided him in his career, too. He’s a natural leader with intangible qualities that NFL coaches value. His charismatic smile can light up a locker room, his light-hearted nature endears him to teammates, and his calm demeanor and team-first attitude leads to a positive relationship with the fan base and local media.
“There are guys with lesser talent that would be stomping their feet and complaining, but Joe is all about the team and that's one of the reasons the players have always rallied around him,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “I couldn't understand it, and as time went on I realized he's just one of those guys you pull for.”
A fan-favorite in Minnesota and one of the most popular players in his own locker room, there were a lot of people pulling for Webb to successfully transition from NFL quarterback to NFL receiver. It’s easy to forget that there were nearly 200 receivers on NFL rosters during training camps who have been playing the position their whole lives, and most of them didn’t make it past final cuts. Webb made the grade after honing his skill at the position for less than six months.
“It would be unfair to evaluate him as a receiver like I evaluate the rest of them because they've been receivers all their lives,” Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart said. “Joe's been a quarterback. It's kind of like me trying to be a chef. It's not going to work. I've got to burn some stuff up. But Joe's going to help us.”
Webb clearly had a man in his corner in Stewart, a well-respected and tenured NFL coach. But Frazier is another who would love to see Webb take the next step in his career with the Vikings.
“He has very good hands. He knows the offense very well. He's actually helping some of the young guys in where to line up at,” Frazier said. “Knowing how hard he works and knowing how much he wants to succeed as a receiver, he'll have a very good chance of getting that done.”
Going back to that “The more you can do” reference, on top of polishing up his skill as a receiver, Webb has been working on Vikings special teams phases, as well. One might assume his work has come as a returner, and that is true. But he’s also working on kick coverage groups as a gunner and on kick return groups as a blocker. In fact, he threw a key block on
“I don’t know if he is comfortable in anything yet, but I think that he is becoming more comfortable with all the techniques that we teach him at the gunner position,” Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer explained. “I like the direction that he is going, and he has worked very hard.”
On one hand, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for a player in Webb’s position. Everyone and their brother knows he can help a football team, yet he’s been asked to switch positions his whole career. But on the other hand, he’s found success at every level of a game he deeply loves and this summer he’s continued to live out his dream.
“I just like football. I have a passion for the game. I've been playing it since I was a little kid,” Webb said. “It's a blessing to be out here on the field. Some guys graduate from college and don't get a chance to come out here on an NFL field. I'm just happy for the moment and just trying to take advantage of it.”