Freeman: Pump brakes on immediacy

Josh Freeman saw the running game and an offensive line he like with the Minnesota Vikings, but he also liked the ability to sit and learn before being thrust back into the starting role. The Vikings' newest quarterback covered a lot of ground about his past, present and future Monday night.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said newly acquired QB Josh Freeman wouldn't be ready to play this weekend.

For that, a reflective Freeman is thankful, despite being only four days removed from his release by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and two weeks removed from having their starting job pulled from him.

"When I heard I got cut, I was like, ‘I want to get back in there right away.' In all honestly, from a standpoint of a career move, something that really I liked about the Vikings is that they've got a guy. They've got a situation where I can come in and learn the system," Freeman said. "Whether they call for me and they need me to play, that's one thing, but it's just an opportunity to kind of pump the brakes. It's been a pretty crazy past few weeks and just really get back to the reason we're all here and that's playing football."

After up-and-down performances the previous three years, Freeman was mostly down this year in his three starts before being benched. He completed only 45.7 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 59.3 rating, regressing to essentially the rating he had as a rookie before showing all sorts of promise in 2010.

That's when Freeman passed for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions for a career-high 95.9 passer rating. It would appear to be the best season of his five-year career. But …

"Not even close. It was great football, no doubt," Freeman said. "Five-touchdown game (against Seattle on Dec. 26, 2010), but every year I constantly try to improve. I feel last year we hit a nice little stretch and that was probably the best I played, the most in tune, the most with the defense, understanding the D-coordinator and going out and putting it all together and scoring points. That's, in my opinion, the best I've played."

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he reviewed about 40 games of Freeman's this weekend as the Vikings considered signing him – they eventually settled on a one-year contract that will pay him $2 million for the remainder of the season.

His two wins against the Vikings also made a big impression on the Vikings brass. Against them, Freeman completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 505 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for a 98.2 rating.

"I watched him live twice, what he did to us in the Metrodome – not only last year but I think a few years ago when we played him," Spielman said. "I think he did bring them back from behind to beat us in the Metrodome. I know that he is a big quarterback with a strong arm that can do a lot of good things at all levels of the field."


Although Spielman tried to downplay the signing of a quarterback with 59 career starts, saying Freeman was just another player on the waiver wire that the Vikings could add to improve their roster, it is clear the Vikings are setting up for Freeman to be a starter in the coming weeks to get an evaluation on him before it comes time to consider re-signing him.

Freeman says he was promised nothing but an opportunity in Minnesota. That "opportunity" has to come soon, but how long will it take for Freeman to be ready in a new offense?

"At this point, I really have no idea. I really don't. I have yet to have a chance to sit down with (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave and go through the things to study as far as the offense goes," Freeman said Monday night. "I don't know what this offense is going to be exactly. I heard different things about it, but I have yet to get my hands on it."

Spielman said he didn't give Freeman the hard sell on the Vikings, despite the general manager acknowledging how much he liked Freeman when he scouted him prior to the draft in 2009.

"We don't try to do a hard sell, like we promise you this, we promise you that. We put everything out on the table, up front and honest (with) the situation they're coming into," Spielman said. "… I want the players that want to be here and want to play for the Minnesota Vikings."

Freeman did.

He had a handful of teams pursuing him aggressively, according to FOX Sports, but he liked a combination of things about the Vikings. They didn't need to force him into a starting role immediately yet wanted to see what he could offer when ready.

"I don't think there's a quarterback that doesn't think they would be a good fit for this offense. I say that from the standpoint of the talent that is on this offense," Freeman said. "It's kind of cliché, but they say it, a quarterback's best friend is the running back and the offensive line. A good running game, and they've got a lot of speed, a lot of talent on the outside, two, really three, incredibly talented tight ends. It's a very talented offense.

"Something about it just felt right in my heart – very gut feeling. I'm just definitely fired up."


Freeman wouldn't have been available if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their hard-driving head coach, Greg Schiano, hadn't reached a point of no return.

Freeman had lost his first three games of the season and had a league-low 45.7 completion percentage.

But it was also clear there was a personality conflict. Freeman was made inactive and told to watch the fourth game of this season from a suite instead of being on the sidelines. He never made it to a fifth game with the Bucs. They tried to trade him, but with a league full of general managers well aware he would be released if not traded, there were no takers.

The player-coach conflicts are becoming familiar in Tampa. Aqib Talib, LeGarrette Blount and Kellen Winslow, Jr. were all released because they apparently didn't fit Schiano's way of doing things.

"Obviously he didn't feel I was the guy he wanted leading his team, the caliber of quarterback he wanted behind center," Freeman said Schiano. "I had a lot of great memories, a lot of good times with the fellas. … Times change, things progress. I'm just fired up to be here in Minnesota. I'm moving forward."

Still, Freeman, through his agent, released a statement last week saying he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and entered the NFL's substance-abuse program because he mistakenly took Ritalin instead of Adderall. He felt the need to release that statement because, he claimed, someone in the Bucs organization leaked that he was in the program, a fact that is supposed to remain confidential.

Frazier said the Vikings looked into Freeman's situation and Spielman, a stickler for the details, tried to avoid giving any details.

"I'm not going to reveal everything that we know and don't know. I just know kids – I know we've known about him coming out. I know talking to the people that we've talked to about Josh that I don't know what happened down in Tampa. It's none of my business at all," Spielman said. "I know that Josh Freeman is a Minnesota Viking now and we're looking forward to moving on."

Freeman said he didn't realize his situation had gotten to the point of no return until he was actually released. He tried to avoid hearing about all the speculation, but he also took some ownership in the situation.

"I think anytime something like this happens to anybody at any position, you have to step back and, regardless of what you're feeling at the time, you have to look inward," he said. "You can't blame all the exteriors or you can't blame – you have to look at it from what you can control, what you could control moving forward. I think that's the only way you can go about things with a clear conscience and the right attitude to succeed."

His opportunity to start won't come this Sunday, but it is coming soon and the final few months on the Vikings roster will help shape the coming years of his career, whether that's in Minnesota or not.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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