By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Josh Freeman will be the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night against the New York Giants.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made the announcement after practice on Wednesday. Frazier also said that Christian Ponder will be the backup, not Matt Cassel, assuming Freeman makes it through the week without problems.
“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,” Frazier said. “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 will be the third starter in the last four games for the Vikings (1-4). He was cut by Tampa Bay on Oct. 3 and signed by Minnesota to a one year contract five days later. Freeman started 59 games over four-plus seasons with the Buccaneers. The 25-year-old former first-round draft pick threw for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010, his first full season as a starter, but has been up and down since.
Frazier said he was impressed by Freeman’s first practice with the team.
“The way he functioned that day, it was far different than what I expected, than what any of our coaches expected,” Frazier said. “But he had worked hard once he arrived. 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.”
Frazier said he hasn’t considered a scenario in which Ponder wouldn’t still be on the roster for the rest of the season. Ponder said he wasn’t sure about his future here.
“I have to figure out what’s best for me and everything and for this team. I don’t know if that’s staying here and going somewhere else,” Ponder said.
Running back Adrian Peterson was missing from practice because of a personal matter. Frazier said he expected him back on Thursday. The coach declined to answer whether his absence was related to the situation in South Dakota regarding his 2-year-old son, who died last week by alleged abuse.