Quarterback Josh Freeman, who was released less than two weeks ago by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been named the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback for Monday night’s game against the New York Giants.
The team announced the move Wednesday, the first time Freeman took snaps with the first-team offense.
“I like the things he’s done in his career, along with what he’s done since he arrived here with our football team, the time he put in, how well he’s adapted to our system,” head coach Leslie Frazier told the media Wednesday.
“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. I think now is the time. Our coaching staff is going to do a great job in preparing him, making sure we have a game plan that will allow him to be successful and allow our team to be successful.”
Freeman signed one-year, $3-million contract with the Vikings after his release from Tampa Bay. He did not see action in the Vikings’ 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, which dropped the club to a 1-4 record, fourth in the NFC North.
“We’ll have enough from our playbook to where he can function and have success and allow our offense to have success as well. We’re not going to have the entire playbook in, but we don’t do that anyway,” said Frazier. “We’ll have enough in to where he won’t get bogged down and he can go out and play well.”
Since Freeman’s first practice, he has exceeded all expectations, convincing Frazier he’d be ready much sooner than anticipated.
“From the moment he stepped in the building, he wanted to learn. And the way he handled himself in that practice, it changed my mindset about the possibilities. We had a timeframe in mind originally but watching what he did from the day he arrived, that cemented it for me that sooner was a possibility.”
Backup Matt Cassel started the last two games in place of starter Christian Ponder, a former 12th overall pick who had been suffering from a rib injury. Frazier said that Ponder will now serve in a backup role.
In Minnesota, Freeman gets a fresh new start with a chance to resurrect a promising career after being run out of town with one year left on his rookie contract.
“Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Sure I do. But I think it’s a lot more deeply-rooted than just the past six months, 12 months. It’s just wanting to go out and wanting to be great,” Freeman told reporters after practice when asked if he had something to prove.
“Even deeper than that — Leslie extended his hand, giving me an opportunity to come in here. Everything I’ve felt from Rick, from the entire team — this is a very special group of guys. It really is an honor. I think it’s something very special to have the opportunity to be the starter for the Vikings coming into this week.”
Freeman left Tampa Bay after a well-documented feud with Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. The NFLPA has said it believes Schiano is responsible for leaking his status in the league substance abuse program, which surfaced in a report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
The report forced him to come out publicly and admit that he has ADHD. He said he made a one-time error in taking Ritalin instead of his prescribed Adderall and that his participation in the program was voluntary.
“Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information,” Freeman said in a statement last month.
Schiano and the the Buccaneers are currently under investigation by the NFLPA for the alleged leak in which Schiano has denied.