Josh Freeman practiced for the first time with the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday, three days after he was signed to eventually be their starting quarterback.
With the Vikings sitting at a precarious 1-3 heading into a game against Carolina on Sunday, Freeman is trying to absorb a brand new offense and get on the same page with a new set of teammates in hopes of taking over at some point.
Coach Leslie Frazier has already said Freeman won’t start this week, but after that all bets are off. He won’t have a training camp or a full summer of practices to digest the offense and get a handle on his responsibilities.
But there’s no doubt the Vikings are planning to get Freeman some game action as soon as he’s ready.
”There are some challenges, but there are some things you can do to try to condense things and try to help a guy get on the field,” Frazier said.
”But you don’t want to do it to the point where you affect the rest of your team in a negative way, in our case, our offense.
”We’ll work as hard as we can. He wants to work and get it. We’ll put something together where hopefully real soon he’ll have a chance to be able to get on the field.”
Once thought of as a franchise player in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers released the 25-year-old quarterback last week after a series of conflicts with coach Greg Schiano and the organization.
Freeman chose Minnesota over a number of suitors, knowing full well the Vikings’ muddled quarterback situation offered perhaps the best chance to get on the field soon and start boosting his stock as he looks to secure a long-term contract.
All indications are that Matt Cassel will start a second straight game for the Vikings. Christian Ponder started the first three games — all losses — and did not play against Pittsburgh in London two weeks ago after injuring his ribs. Cassel performed well, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Vikings to their first win.
Bringing in Freeman appears to be the end of the line for Ponder, drafted 12th overall in 2011, in Minnesota. Frazier and GM Rick Spielman now want to take a long look at Freeman.
Getting Freeman up to speed is especially challenging in the middle of the season. Practice repetitions are at a premium during game weeks, and the coaching staff will have to juggle things to give Freeman a chance to get acclimated.
That was already happening Wednesday, when a group of offensive and defensive reserves stayed after practice to run a few plays with Freeman under center.
”It’s interesting because their main goal is going out and getting a win Sunday,” Freeman said. ”But having the technology they have, having the playbook and having the installs and having my experience in a similar offense, with football in general, going through the installs and learning them as they might’ve learned them in training camp for the first time, and really starting to build up toward being able to go out and compete.”
The veterans on the team were taking the addition in stride. They’ve seen some unique things with the quarterback position before, particularly with Brett Favre’s eventful two seasons here.
”When you’ve been around Minnesota long enough and seeing quarterbacks added in the middle of the season, nothing surprises you,” seventh-year defensive end Brian Robison said with a smile.
”But like coach said, it’s an opportunity for us to make our football team better and I believe Josh Freeman gives us that opportunity.”
As hectic as it’s been for Freeman, he is trying to ease his way into things in his new home.
”That’s the goal this week is to get ready to play enough, to play in an emergency situation, to be able to go out and run a limited package,” he said. ”I know these coaches do a tremendous job, so I’m not going to put out a limit on the amount of information I’m going to be able to take in and digest this week.”
NOTE: The Viking cut DE George Johnson and signed DE Justin Trattou.