Freeman to vie for Vikes’ job; to sit Sunday

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings won’t rush to make Josh Freeman their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, but coach Leslie Frazier said Freeman will get a chance to compete for the job once he’s up to speed on the team’s offense.

Freeman’s one-year contract with the Vikings will be official once the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback passes a physical Monday afternoon, and he likely will join the team Wednesday.

Either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel will start for the Vikings at home Sunday — the Vikings still need to see whether Ponder’s broken rib has healed enough for him to play — but their future at the position beyond that is unclear.

Frazier said Ponder is “still our starter” if he’s healthy and added that “Christian still has a bright future here with our football team,” though he conceded “it may not look like that on the surface.” 

But the coach also said that the chance to start was a central part of his conversations with Freeman before the Vikings signed him.

“I mean, that’s part of the equation,” Frazier said. “When we talked with him, that’s definitely on the table, so we’ll see how well he progresses and how well he picks up our offense.”

Freeman, who was released by the Buccaneers after several run-ins with the coaching staff over the past few months, is also in the first stage of the NFL’s substance-abuse program for what he claimed was a one-time mistake with his ADHD medication. Frazier said he and the Vikings’ front office did enough research on Freeman’s past to believe he could fit in with the team.

“You hear so many things; you have to find out what’s true and what’s not,” Frazier said. “Once I did a little digging and had a chance to talk with him, I think we’ll be able to coexist. I think we’ll be all right.”

The move would seem to suggest that Ponder’s future in Minnesota is in doubt. The third-year quarterback threw two touchdown passes against five interceptions in the Vikings’ first three games and missed the team’s last game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London, where Cassel led the team to its only win.

Ponder, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, said “in my eyes, I’m getting prepared to play” on Sunday against the Panthers. He wouldn’t divulge details about a meeting he had with Frazier on Monday morning about the Freeman move, but Frazier said both Cassel and Ponder wanted only to know how their roles would look in the future.

“One thing you can expect in the NFL — expect the unexpected,” Cassel said. “Because every week it changes. You never know what’s going to happen. I learned that over time; this is my ninth year now. Anything that’s overwhelming, or surprising, it’s one of those things that’s the NFL.”

  • Previously covered Vikings for St. Paul Pioneer Press
  • Also covered Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild and Washington Nationals
  • Twin Cities native and University of Minnesota graduate

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