EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Josh Freeman has been cleared to practice, and did some limited work for the Minnesota Vikings on Friday. He'll be inactive on Sunday night, and will return to full practice next week. It could be at that point where the Vikings' quarterback plan for the rest of the year becomes clear.
They've been able to coordinate two quarterback switches this year -- from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel in September, and from Freeman back to Ponder this week -- around injuries that have quelled some questions about where they're actually going at the position. But if Ponder makes it through Sunday's game with the Green Bay Packers without an injury, the Vikings should have all of their quarterbacks healthy going into next Sunday's game with the Dallas Cowboys.
Privately, the Vikings might have been relieved Freeman needed the week to step back from practice after going 20-of-53 for 195 yards in Monday's loss to the New York Giants. Freeman was asked to start the game after just two weeks with the team, and he admitted on Friday that some of his inaccuracy was due to the fact he wasn't entirely comfortable with his surroundings yet.
“I think with any quarterback, there's a lot of times where read one, read two, step out of the pocket, moving, there's just that comfort level when you know where you're going with the ball and you're comfortable stepping up in the pocket and getting your feet set,” Freeman said. “Then accuracy goes way up. There were obviously some shots, looking back, I could hit in my sleep, but in the game they were maybe a little high. That made it hard on my guys.”
It would have been hard to expect Freeman to be sharp in that situation last Monday, and wide receiver Greg Jennings said the quarterback handled things as well as he could have, considering how fast he was thrown into action. But coach Leslie Frazier thought a number of Freeman's mistakes were mechanical issues, and in four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Freeman never completed more than 62.1 percent of his passes.
In all likelihood, the Vikings will give Freeman a longer look once he returns. They signed him to take a long look at him, and one bad performance probably isn't going to dissuade them from that. But say Ponder -- who had one of his best games at home last Dec. 30 against the Packers -- is able to reprise that performance and get the Vikings a win. Will they be able to go back to Freeman, and sell that approach to veteran defensive players like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams who are in the last year of their contracts? Ponder hasn't inspired a great deal of confidence in the past, but at some point, the Vikings have to go with one quarterback, and a good showing from Ponder might tempt them to stick with the hot hand.
Should that happen, the Vikings likely won't have injuries to offer as justification for their decision. They'll have to show a few more of their cards, and it will be interesting to see where their quarterback saga goes next with three healthy quarterbacks.