Josh Freeman has surpassed the one-week mark immersed in the Minnesota Vikings offense.
It would be natural to make numerous assumptions about his preparedness to start his first game in the new offense on the national stage of Monday Night Football. Freeman insists, however, that he will be ready when the Vikings face the New York Giants on Monday night.
"Between (head coach Leslie Frazier) and me, there's no way I would come onto that field if I didn't feel I was ready and he didn't feel I was ready," Freeman said Thursday. "Obviously, he spends a lot of time talking with the offensive coaches but didn't really set any parameters, didn't say, ‘You got to be doing this by …' I just came in and said I would work has hard as I can, focus on me every day, and try to learn this team and this offense.
"I feel I can give us a chance to win, with my knowledge of the offense and just being a football player."
Freeman has a 24-36 record as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including a 13-18 mark on the road. He will lead a 1-4 Vikings team against a 0-6 Giants team.
He was named the starter for the Vikings on Wednesday after arriving in Minnesota only eight days before that and impressing the coaching staff almost immediately.
The process may seem like a hasty one from the outside, but Frazier insists Freeman has put in plenty of overtime for his tall task.
"The process means from sun up to sun down, spending time with the coaches, watching film, going through the game plan, and it will be a game plan that is kind of tailored to where he is, along with where our team is, so that he doesn't have to learn everything that's in our playbook," Frazier said. "So that's going to help him. But the amount of time that he is spending over here definitely assists in his being able to catch up and perform well on Monday."
Freeman said his head isn't "swimming" with too much knowledge about the offense, but rather he is "embracing the grind."
He isn't being asked to learn every play, nor will he even during the rest of the season. His game plan will be handed to him on a weekly basis in regimented chunks.
"I'm trying to focus on this week's game plan and maximize the potential for this week and come back next week and do it all over again with next week's game plan," Freeman said.
The most difficult part of the transition for him in joining a team in a mid-stride? Taking in everything, from protection adjustments for the offensive line to route adjustments for wide receivers, and communicating it all in the huddle or before the snap of the ball.
"Some of these plays get somewhat lengthy and there's stuff within the play and you understand exactly where everybody's going – whether it's motion, whether it's a route tagged in there, whether it's a concept – you understand what everybody's doing, but being able to spit that out when you're on the clock, when it's loud, when stuff is going on, when you're out of breath, whatever is going on, being able to spit that out and knowing exactly what you're saying and who you're saying it to and saying it with confidence in the huddle so we break the huddle in rhythm and get up to the line with a little momentum," he said.
Freeman figures the game plan will be similar in size to last week's when Cassel was the starter. In other words, he doesn't anticipate a difference in the number of plays that are carried into a game.
"It's just a matter of verbalizing it and knowing what you're keying off of, some different nuances in the protection game, knowing when you're protected, when you're hot … and seeing the defense," he said. "That's where it all starts. Approach the line and looking at the defense and seeing what they're in and then moving forward."
Interestingly, Freeman said former quarterback and current receiver Joe Webb has been a big help to him. The experiences Webb can relay from both the receiver and quarterback positions have been "tremendous" for Freeman.
"I've spent a lot of time talking to him. And I spend a lot of time talking about offensive principles, and guys' strengths and weaknesses," Freeman said.
In the quarterbacks room, however, Freeman downplayed any natural awkwardness that might be present between him and the more established Cassel and Christian Ponder.
"Those guys are constantly giving me advice, telling me about the nuances within the offense that could pay dividends down the long stretch," he said. "But it's really, all-in-all, a team effort and just studying; studying and watching tape, finding time to get the appropriate amount of film study on the Giants.
"Both those guys – the decision's made – we're working and it's just the level of preparation, the attitude, everything continues to stay at a high level. Like I said, I'm blessed and fortunate and that speaks volumes on those two guys and their character."
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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