Josh Freeman (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY)
The Vikings will start Josh Freeman Monday night after working this week to get him up to speed, giving him the first-team reps at the start of their practice week.
Josh Freeman will make his Minnesota Vikings debut on Monday Night Football, head coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday, and the coaching staff is doing everything it can to make it as seamless as possible.
Freeman was first in the Vikings’ rotation of quarterbacks Wednesday during the open portion of practice, and working with the first-team offense when they ran multiple plays in a row.
“I like the things that he’s done in his career, along with the things that he’s done since he arrived with our football team, the time that’s he put in, how well he’s adapted to our system,” Frazier said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s done enough for us to say we want to give him this opportunity, which is something we had in mind when we acquired him. We think now is the time.”
Christian Ponder will be the backup Monday night against the New York Giants.
“We’ll obviously tweak a little bit what we do based on (the starter),” Giants coach Tom Coughlin acknowledged.
Those are the key takeaways this week to the Vikings’ season-long quarterback melodrama after a Wednesday at Winter Park. Freeman will be the third starting quarterback in four games for the Vikings.
Freeman was signed by the Vikings last week to a one-year contract that will pay him $2 million for the remainder of the season.
“We’ll put in just enough for him to be able to execute and execute well and lead our team to victory on Monday night,” Frazier said. “We’ll have enough in to do what we’ve got to do.”
Ponder started the first three games of the season and then was sent to the backup role with a rib injury. Matt Cassel took over for Ponder in Week 4 and led the Vikings to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London but threw two interceptions in Sunday’s 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Metrodome.
The Vikings may be trying to figure out how to analyze their quarterback situation for next season as much as anything, but Frazier said he was impressed with Freeman already last Wednesday when he ran a post-practice session with some of the younger players.
“The way he functioned that day, it was far different than I expected and any of our coaches expected, but he had worked hard from the moment he arrived,” Frazier said. “Once he stepped foot in our building, he wanted to learn. The way he handled himself in that practice, it changed my mindset about the possibilities. We had a time frame in mind originally, but watching what he did from the day he arrived, that cemented it for me that sooner was a possibility.”
Ponder completed 59 percent of his passes, averaging 6.91 yards per attempt, and had two touchdowns and five interceptions in his three starts for a 65.9 passer rating. Frazier said he didn’t foresee any scenario in which Ponder wouldn’t finish the season on the roster.
Cassel completed 69.6 percent of his passes, averaging 7.09 yards per attempt, and had three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 92.0 rating in his two starts.
Like Ponder, Freeman also started the first three games of the season before being benched and then subsequently released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He completed 45.7 percent of his passes, averaging 6.07 yards per attempt, and had two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 59.3 rating.
In total, none of the three options have been very successful this year, which is why they have all been relegated to the sidelines at one point or another.
Now, it’s up to the Vikings to figure out which one or two remain for the future.
Ponder has 2014 left on his rookie contract, which will pay him $1.76 million in base salary. Cassel is scheduled to make $3.7 million in base salary and bonuses next year, but he also has the ability to void the final year of the two-year contract he signed in March.
Freeman’s contract is up after 2013, shifting his evaluation into overdrive.
RB Adrian Peterson wasn’t at practice Wednesday, likely missing to attend the funeral of his 2-year-old son in Sioux Falls, S.D. Frazier said he would talk with Peterson later Wednesday and expects him to practice on Thursday.
S Harrison Smith didn’t practice Wednesday after suffering turf toe in Sunday’s loss.
CB A.J. Jefferson was at practice but looked like he would be limited, at best. He wasn’t listed among the injuries suffered on Sunday.
The Vikings gave a workout to former Colts safety Joe Lefeged, according to ESPN contributor Adam Caplan.
Lefeged has started five games in 36 games with the Indianapolis Colts before he was released earlier this month. He has 66 career tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed.
Lefeged was arrested in June for carrying a firearm without a license, having an unregistered firearm, having unregistered ammunition, presence of a firearm in a motor vehicle and possession of an open container of alcohol after fleeing police following a traffic stop in Washington, D.C.
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.