Freeman could be Vikings' starting QB this week
EDEN PRAIRIE — Just as the floundering, injured Christian Ponder made the transition to Matt Cassel easy two weeks ago, Cassel’s two interceptions in Sunday’s 35-10 home loss to the Carolina Panthers has fast-tracked the inevitable transition to Josh Freeman as the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback.
How quickly will the change come? Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t say on Monday, but he did say he won’t wait all week to decide who will start next week’s “Monday Night Football” road game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
“I’d like to by the time we get back in practice on Wednesday, which is a shorter practice, have an idea of which guy is going to be leading our team,” Frazier said. “We’ll talk about it (Monday) and (Tuesday), because we’ve got to put the game plan together. We’re going to try to have a conclusion by Wednesday, so we can go out and get that guy the reps he needs for the game.”
Monday marked a week since the Vikings signed Freeman, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-round draft pick in 2009. Freeman, who was released by the Bucs on Oct. 3, wasn’t brought in to stand around.
At 25 — just 43 days older than Ponder — Freeman was brought in to see if he and his strong-armed, down-the-field passing mentality can be the long-term complement to a run-oriented offense built around league MVP Adrian Peterson.
Sunday, Frazier said he wasn’t sure Freeman could get up to speed enough to start against the Giants. Monday, Frazier acknowledged that it’s a possibility but reaffirmed Freeman would be running a scaled-down version of the Vikings’ offense for as long as he plays this season. Freeman did throw for more than 4,000 yards last season, but struggled before being released this year. He completed just 45.7 percent of his passes with two touchdown passes and three interceptions.
“I want to talk with him a little bit and just pick his brain some, talk through some things and see where he is,” Frazier said. “Our offensive coaches will do the same.”
Frazier said he’s not leaning any particular way. It was clear that it won’t be Ponder since the Vikings stuck with Cassel during what was at one point a 33-point deficit against the Panthers.
As for Cassel, Frazier said, “he needs to play better.” His two picks came on wildly overthrown balls and both were turned into Panthers touchdowns. He did complete 72.7 percent of his passes, but averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt. On passes that traveled at least 20 yards from the line of scrimmage, Cassel was 1 of 4 with two interceptions.
So, basically, with the Vikings at 1-4 for the second time in three years, look for Freeman to start against the Giants regardless of how limited he’ll be in the offense. After all, the Vikings have nothing to lose at this point.
Running back Adrian Peterson played Sunday’s game two days after the death of his 2-year-old son in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“Yeah, I was set on it,” he said. “I just look at things and I don’t ask people to understand my mindset and how things work. Even if it’s bad I try and take the good from it. That’s the way I approach life, with all situations. I never thought about not playing. It was all about going out there and praying that I had the strength to get through and help my team, so that was my focus.”
Reports surfaced that Peterson wasn’t aware that the child was until recently and hadn’t seen him until visiting him in the hospital on Thursday. Asked to explain the relationship he had with the boy, Peterson said, “Can we focus on football? I’m not really trying to get into details on that. We just got blown out by (25) points. So let’s focus on football and what the Minnesota Vikings can do to get better.”
Peterson’s son died from injuries sustained in an assault that police say was committed by the boyfriend of the child’s mother.
“It’s a crazy situation,” Peterson said. “Anytime you lose a child, no matter the circumstances, it hurts. I can’t describe it. But I’ve got a good supporting cast surrounding me.”
FS Harrison Smith (turf toe) was injured in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Carolina and was scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) exam on Monday. If he’s unable to play in Week 7, it’s a huge blow to the secondary. He’s the team’s best defensive back and would be replaced by a special teamer, Andrew Sendejo.
CB Xavier Rhodes sprained his ankle against the Panthers. He left the game, returned and then left for good when the game got out of hand. His MRI came back negative, but his status will be updated on Wednesday. If he can’t play, it takes the team’s best corner off the field. Punt returner Marcus Sherels, who holds his own considering he doesn’t have the skills of top NFL corner, would have to play in the slot in the nickel defense.
OLB Desmond Bishop (knee) tore an anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season. Bishop, the former Packer, had finally worked his way into the starting lineup after signing in late summer. With him out, the Vikings will return to Marvin Mitchell, a career backup before this season, while also trying to get rookie Gerald Hodges up to speed.