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The Minnesota Vikings have been a football team with a quarterback problem all season, and they will turn to a third name in Week 7 to try to solve it. The team announced on Wednesday morning that Josh Freeman will start when the Vikings travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants on Monday evening.
"I like the things that he’s done in his career along with the things he’s done since he arrived here with our football team," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "The time he’s put in, how well he’s adapting to our system and I like his work ethic. 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, and our coaching staff is going to do a great job in preparing him and making sure we have a game plan that will allow him to be successful and allow our team to be successful."
The Vikings started the 2013 season with Christian Ponder as their starting quarterback, but that was based as much on Ponder's status as the team's first-round pick in 2011 than anything he's done on the field. Minnesota signed veteran Matt Cassel to be Ponder's backup before the season, and the two have combined to complete 107 passes in 169 attempts for 1,180 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ponder suffered a rib injury in the third game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, and Cassel didn't do much in Ponder's stead.
That's why Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman pulled the trigger on Freeman after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 3 after a long battle with head coach Greg Schiano. The Vikings acquired Freeman three days later, and signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract.
One day after the Vikings lost to the Carolina Panthers, 35-10, Frazier was asked about his plans at the quarterback position, and when he'd be able to name a starter.
"I’d like to by the time we get back and practice on Wednesday, which is a shorter practice, have an idea which guy is going to be leading our team," he said. "We’re going to talk about it today and tomorrow because we’ve got to put the gameplan 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."
Now, Freeman is that guy. He has two-thirds of a season to prove that he has what it takes to be the team's long-term future -- or, at the very least, up his value on the free-agent market prior to the 2014 season. In three games for the Buccaneers before he was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, Freeman completed 43 passes in 94 attempts for 571 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Freeman was the Bucs' first-round pick in 2009, and rocked the Vikings' defense last Oct. 25 in a 36-17 Tampa Bay win. He threw for three touchdowns and made decisive throws in the face of pressure, while also frustrating with some head-scratching incompletions.
That's been Freeman's modus operandi through most of his career, but the Vikings are ready to see if they can turn that around. "We’ll have enough from our playbook where he can function and have success and allow our offense to have success as well," Frazier said of Monday's game plan. "We’re not going to have the entire playbook, but we don’t do that anyway. We have game plans specifically for that team and that’s what we’ve done here as well, so we’ll have enough in where he won’t get bogged down and he can go out and play well."