EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Josh Freeman was one of the last players off of the practice field for the on Wednesday, as he has been many times the past few weeks while trying to prepare himself for a chance at the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback job.
Freeman stays after practice, working with quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson and throwing to practice squad receiver Adam Thielen or Rodney Smith, who was recently promoted to the active roster. Freeman kept working Wednesday out in the cold temperatures as Minnesota practiced for a rare time outside heading into this weekend’s game at Green Bay, a game Freeman won’t be starting as Vikings coach Leslie Frazier decided Christian Ponder would start for the fifth straight game.
Rushed into the lineup just two weeks after signing, Freeman is left to wait for another shot but he’s not worrying about the circumstances.
“Hey, I gave up on that,” Freeman said. “I’m just working. No, it’s been great. I’ve just been focusing on football. I had a chance to really; there’s no distractions, no anything. You just get to sit and focus. I get my Beats bumping in the QB room, just sitting there and just jamming and watch tape and take notes. It’s great. It’s great.”
Freeman said he isn’t disappointed with his situation, one few expected when he signed with the Vikings on Oct. 8 after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freeman and Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said no promises were made about Freeman’s chance to eventually start for the Vikings, but as the season has slipped away and the starting quarterback has become a weekly topic of debate, Freeman hasn’t received a second chance.
His first chance didn’t go as he or Minnesota would have liked. Thrust into the lineup on Oct. 21, Freeman was left to attempt 53 passes — a single-game high for a Vikings’ quarterback since Daunte Culpepper threw 53 passes on Sept. 29, 2002. Freeman completed just 20 of the 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception in a 23-7 loss on a Monday night.
Now he waits for another chance.
“I know that upstairs they know what they’re doing,” Freeman said. “The coaching staff, Leslie, they feel like Christian is the best option. Like I said, it’s not my job to dispute that. It’s my job to go out and work as hard as I can.”
Freeman said getting a chance to play factored into his decision when he chose to sign with Minnesota in October. The Vikings were on their bye week and Matt Cassel had just led the team to a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London while filling in for Ponder, who was out with a fractured rib.
A pending free agent after this season, Freeman signed with Minnesota for $2 million for the remainder of this season and is still being paid by Tampa Bay. He had chances to sign elsewhere, but said he has no regrets about choosing the Vikings.
“Nah, man, I just kind of go. I go for life,” Freeman said. “There’s not really anything that I look back on that I say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve done this.’ Not everything’s going to work out for you, but at the same time you can’t go your life just second-guessing everything you do.”
In announcing Ponder as this week’s starter, Frazier didn’t count out the possibility of Freeman starting again this season and even remarked that he’d take another look at the position Monday following Sunday’s game at Green Bay.
“He’s still working hard,” Frazier said of Freeman. “He’s still doing a lot of good things in practice. As I mentioned, there may come a time here where he’s out there. But for this week it’s going to be Christian. For Josh he’s still preparing well, doing what he needs to do in the meeting, doing what he has to do at practice. We’ll see what happens down the line.”
Frazier has no regrets when it comes to adding Freeman, as well.
“When you look at where we were at the time and what we were trying to accomplish and what we were facing,” Frazier said. “To not take advantage of that opportunity to bring him in and be able to be around him, take a look at him, see if he could help our club, I think we’d be kicking ourselves just wondering. We still have other games to play. There still may be other opportunities for him. No regrets about bringing him in, especially where we were at the time and where we are now. No regrets in that regard.”
Frazier said Freeman has met or exceeded expectations from when they first signed him.
“In some ways, based on the information that we received, he’s exceeded those,” Frazier said. “He’s been all in. He’s been a professional in everything we’ve asked him to do. I like the way he handles himself in the pocket, in the meetings in the locker room. Much better than some things that we had heard.”
Freeman said he might have been bothered by the current situation earlier in his career. But after a sour ending in Tampa Bay, where he was once believed to be the team’s long-term starter, he said he doesn’t want to be a distraction and is choosing to enjoy his time in Minnesota and focus on being prepared to start if he is given another opportunity.
“I could probably say maybe my first couple years in the league,” Freeman said when asked if he’d have been frustrated by the circumstances before. “But at the same time, I like to consider myself fairly rational and can evaluate the situation and what’s going on. I think that the best thing for, honestly everybody, but especially for me is to be the best me that I can be. Things that are out of my control, I’m done with those.”