Josh Freeman and QB coach Craig Johnson
The Vikings are reaching a balance of teaching Josh Freeman while game-planning against the Carolina Panthers. Plus, Jared Allen said he has had no talks regarding a contract extension, and a couple of offensive players miss practice.
The Vikings have created a delicate balancing act with the signing of quarterback Josh Freeman: How does the coaching staff prepare the offense for the Carolina Panthers and still deal with getting Freeman up to speed?
The answer from most of the coaches: It’s a balancing act.
“It presents some challenges. But like I talked to our players about (Wednesday), we have to be focused on the Carolina Panthers. This is a huge football game for our team, playing at home and looking at the NFC and where things are,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “I, like our players, have to be able to bring it back to the task at hand. We do have some things going on at a critical position, but the focus has to be on the Panthers to get ready for this game.”
At practice, Freeman has been getting reps during individual drills, but Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder are focusing on the plays during full-team work, when the installation of the weekly game plan happens.
Freeman won’t start Sunday, but eventually he will. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave makes it sound as if could be sooner than later.
“He needs to know the language. He needs to be able to present it to the other 10 players in the huddle. Plus, he needs to have a visual map in his head of what the play looks like once he says it,” Musgrave said. “He’s very sharp and it shouldn’t take too long.”
When a fractured rib kept Ponder out of the Vikings’ Week 4 game, it brought on the start of the Matt Cassel era. But Ponder’s injury has been healing.
“(Wednesday) it looked like he was a little bit more comfortable than he was over there in England. So that’s a process we’re going to continue to go through today and hope that he’s even better,” Musgrave said.
Cassel led the Vikings to their first win of the season and the offense didn’t have any turnovers. But he also kept the Vikings in manageable down-and-distance situations, Musgrave said.
“He threw the ball well down the field. We had some good completions. I felt like we stayed on schedule pretty well,” the offensive coordinator said. “I know in the second half, the ball didn’t touch the ground and that always helps. But everyone else played well, too. It wasn’t just Matt. Our whole team had a pretty good game.”
In the meantime, the Vikings are getting Freeman ready behind the scenes.
“We would not just throw the whole gamut at him initially or even over the course of this year. But we want to be able to operate when he does play, so we’re trying to make those judgments as he goes through the process. It’s going to be a challenge, but I know we’re up to it,” Musgrave said.
“I think you’ve got to just keep chipping away at it and we had a good day (Wednesday), but all the way from the elementary stuff to the graduate-level stuff, we want to still be able to run our system out there on the field, be difficult to defend but at the same time allow Josh to play and not always be thinking.”
NO TALKS FOR ALLEN
With DE Brian Robison signing a four-year extension, Jared Allen said there haven’t any contract talks for him.
“Honestly, I’m not even worried about that. I’m in a situation where I’ve been blessed to have been taken care of and the Lord’s been good to me. And that’s where I leave it,” Allen said. “I leave it in the Lord’s hands. Where I’m going to be at is totally up to him and I’m receptive to go where he wants me. It’s not a stressor on my mind, honestly.”
Allen is in the final year of a five-year contract had $31 million guaranteed. He is one of several defensive linemen entering the final year of their contract, including DT Kevin Williams and DE Everson Griffen. Robison was among that group before signing a four-year extension that could be worth up to $22.4 million.
“Good for him. I’m happy. I hope everybody in the league gets paid,” Allen said. “Let’s be honest. This is a business and we are expendable. You just look at our team right now, guys are in and out. You look at the NFL, it’s a revolving door. So any time anybody can get paid and provide for their family for a long time, I’m happy for them. And Brian’s a good player and a friend of mine, a good teammate. So yeah, absolutely, I’m ecstatic for him. I wish he would have gotten more.”
WALSH LEAVES WITH INJURY
Pro Bowl kicker Blair Walsh left practice Thursday after feeling a “twinge” in his hamstring, according to Frazier. Walsh was listed as limited on Thursday’s injury report.
“He was doing some kickoffs and felt a little bit of a twinge, so we just shut him down,” Frazier said. “Precautionary. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Frazier said he believes Walsh should be fine for Sunday’s game. He acknowledged they had a list of kickers they could call in an emergency, but Frazier isn’t anticipating that call will be necessary.
“We do have a short list, but we don’t want to get to it. I think he’ll be fine,” Frazier said. “… Hopefully he’ll be fine. All indications are he will be.”
Adrian Peterson missed Thursday’s practice for personal reasons but should be back to practice Friday.
WR Joe Webb also missed practice with illness.
CB Chris Cook (groin), TE Rhett Ellison (knee), QB Christian Ponder (rib) and DT Kevin Williams (knee) remained limited Thursday.
S Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) was upgraded from limited on Wednesday to full participation on Thursday.
For the Panthers, DT Dwan Edwards (hamstring), S Robert Lester (hamstring) and CB D.J. Moore (knee) didn’t practice. TE Greg Olsen (foot) and S Quintin Mikell (ankle) were full participants, an upgrade for Olsen. DT Colin Cole (shoulder) was limited.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.