Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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A series of national reports indicated the Vikings have signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.
Freeman is problematic. He was inaccurate and error-prone this season. He missed a team photo and battled with his head coach.
This part is important: The coach he battled with, Greg Schiano, may be an idiot.
I like the move. Freeman has had two outstanding NFL seasons. He has the talent to succeed. The Vikings are getting a chance to try out a quarterback capable of being a productive NFL starter without giving up a first-round draft pick or a massive, long-term contract.
The reports are Freeman will sign a one-year deal worth $2.5 to $3 million. That's nothing for a quarterback.
The Vikings may not admit it, but this should end Christian Ponder's tenure in Minnesota. Matt Cassel is sure to start against Carolina next week, and the Vikings aren't bringing in Freeman to be a third-string quarterback.
Freeman gets a fresh start, and the Vikings get a quarterback with NFL talent without waiting and hoping the right guy falls to them in the draft.
This is a smart, aggressive, low-risk, high-reward move by Rick Spielman.
Waiting for my flight home with Strib photographer Carlos Gonzalez, wondering whether the NFL really could work in London.
I think it would work in terms of fan support and television ratings, because London is immense and there have to be sane people in the UK who would realize how much more spectacular the NFL is than soccer and cricket.
The real question fo rme is how it would work logistically. If by the end of the decade, when the NFL would like to place a team in London, it would require a 12-hour flight to travel from Seattle or San Diego to London, then this is untenable.
If flight travel quickens and improves, so that large men don't get off a plane feeling like they've been beaten with hammers, everything else falls into place.
For most of the week, I didn't see any signs or hear any buzz about the game, and the major news outlets largely ignored the NFL. That can change quickly, though, if London has a home team and starts developing decent television ratings.
What won't change without improved air travel is the willingness of NFL players to play in London.
Then again, no premier free agents want to play in Jacksonville, either.
I tend to believe that the NFL will find a way to make this a success. It's not exactly a risky market. It's huge and Engilsh-speaking and not that far from New York.
It's usually a mistake to give people in sports too much credit, but I have to believe that the NFL's research indicates that a team in London would eventually thrive. This league does know what it's doing when it comes to marketing and maximizing television revenues.
Personally, I love London. It's huge but never overwhelming. You never have here that sense you get in New York ,where you feel claustrophobic because of all the skyscrapers. It's more like Boston or San Francisco, filled with quaint buildings and beautiful architecture in the context of a major city.
Heading home now to find out Gardenhire's fate, cover the Wild opener and catch up with the Lynx.
Thanks for reading our coverage from London, and please check out Carlos' many great photos on startribune.com.
Matt Cassel wasn’t always accurate. He fumbled on a play that could have turned the game in the Steelers’ favor if the Viking hadn’t recovered. But he was decisive and he threw with certainty and timing, allowing the Vikings’ receivers to make plays down the field and run after the catch.
That should be good enough to win the starting quarterback job for the forseeable future. The Vikings have built a strong offensive team and Christian Ponder’s indecisiveness had sabotaged the team’s plans to complement Adrian Peterson with legitimate outside receivers like Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson.
Sunday, with Cassel behind center, Simpson and Jennings looked like big-time playmakers. Not coincidentally, Peterson found room to run. The result was a 34-27 Vikings victory over Pittsburgh that saves, or at least extends the competitive portion of, the Vikings’ season.
By the time they come off a bye to face Carolina at home, the Vikings should have a healthy secondary, and a quality group of receivers who will have had more time to work with Cassel.
After one start, it's clear: Cassel is better than Ponder, and the right choice moving forward.
The Minnesota writers from the Twin Cities in London for the Vikings game have developed a morning routine. We eat breakfast, scan the papers, look at each other and say, ``Nope. Nothing.’’
There has been no mention of the Vikings-Steelers game at Wembley in the major morning papers. I haven’t seen a mention on the television, although at least one member of our traveling party has seen a 20-second clip of a Vikings’ practice.
In a country that reveres soccer, cricket, the America’s Cup, Olympic sports, snooker and rugby, this is not particularly surprising.
What’s surprising is that the Vikings are being covered by a large contingent of reporters who seem to be both legitimate and British.
Unless the NFL hired a squad of actors to imitate reporters and legitimize the game.
The British journalists ask intelligent questions and seem keenly interested in American football. Maybe they’re saving all of the coverage for Sunday.
If my personal experience ia any indication, the Vikings should have a big advantage over the Steelers on Sunday.
I landed at midday Monday. I think I had completely recovered from the flight, jet lag and time change by Thursday morning, about 72 hours later.
The Steelers arrived Friday morning. They’ll be playing an NFL game about 54 hours after having landed.
I agree with Jared Allen. The NFL can talk all it wants about putting a team in London, but no NFL player will want to play for a team based here.
We’re covering Vikings practice in Watford right now. Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself will post columns, news stories, videos, photos and blog posts all day at Startribune.com.
We had a tough assignment last night: Shooting a video of Mark Craig taste-testing beer in local pubs. The funny thing is, Mark’s a Bud Light guy. He recoils at the sight of fruit in beer, or any beer that may hold more color than a glass of ice water. So the beer-testing didn’t last long. He found a European version of Bud Light and settled in for the night.
My column in Thursday's paper recreates the way I think the conversation between Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder might have gone.
Here I'll put things more plainly.
Ponder coming down with a mysterious rib injury is perfect for the Vikings. They can take a look at Matt Cassel in a must-win game heading into the bye week, then make a more full-informed decision on the quarterback position. If Cassel plays brilliantly, he keeps the job. If he plays poorly, the Vikings can go back to Ponder and hope he has cleared his head, and they never would have actually benched him.
Of course, this is only speculation. The Vikings aren't about to tip their hand on this one.
For those wondering why, given all of the Vikings' problems, Ponder is the only one facing a potential benching, I go back to what Jerry Burns always said: Changing left guards doesn't send a jolt of electricity through your team. Changing your quarterback does.
Also, remember how much the Vikings invested in their passing game during the offseason. They signed Greg Jennings. They traded into the first round to draft Cordarrelle Patterson. Having a quarterback willing to hang in the pocket long enough for those players to get open (assuming Bill Musgrave actually puts Patterson on the field) might be a good idea.
I keep waiting for some sign of the NFL's popularity in London.
Haven't seen any indication in London proper that there is an NFL game this Sunday. Haven't seen a word in the major newspapers or on the morning TV shows. Or on the evening TV shows. I'm sure there has been media coverage, because there are plenty of reporters covering the Vikings' appearances and practices. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.
The NFL chose well when it chose the Vikings to play here and spend the week promoting the game. They're a willing group of interviewees and ambassadors. When I spoke with Jared Allen yesterday, he used the phrase ``bangers and mash'' about 12 times, saying he loves the food in London.
During the Olympics, I often made fun of London's food, but Allen's right. You can find great restaurants in London, just not where I was staying during the Olympics. The Strib's traveling entourage has particularly enjoyed the Grazing Goat Pub. Mark Craig even tried a dark beer before switching back to something resembling his traditional Bud Lights.
I thought the highlight of the press conferences was Rick Spielman saying he called home to tell his wife to bring her bathing suit, the weather was so nice here.
Not so fast, Rick. It's overcast and threatening today.
I'm spending today with photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez in London, looking for some local color. I mean, colour. Thanks for reading. Remember, we have Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, Carlos and myself covering all angles of the Vikings' trip to London, including the game. Please check back on Startribune.com for columns, stories, notes, blog posts, photos and videos.
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