Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Spielman says Freeman signing doesn't reflect disappointment in Ponder

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: October 7, 2013 - 9:08 PM

Just got off a conference call with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and new Vikings QB Josh Freeman. It's late, so we'll skip past all the stuff about everybody being excited and get right to the highlights ... (FYI: It's a one-year deal and Spielman said the corresponding roster move won't be announced until tomorrow)

Spielman on what this means to Christian Ponder's future with the Vikings: "I spoke with Christian. I spoke with Matt [Cassel]. I spoke with [McLeod Bethel-Thompson] as well. And Josh knows the situation as well. This has no determination on where Christian Ponder is. We think Christian Ponder has a bright future. Matt Cassel came in and did a great job for us when he filled in at London. So right now my main focus and part of my job is to make sure I'm trying to get the best 53 players on this roster. And then at the end of the season, we'll make an evaluation like we always do and determine that going forward. But by no means is this a reflection that we're disappointed with Christian Ponder or disappointed with Matt Cassel or disappointed with Bethel. This was an opportunity to go out and add another football player that we have high regard for."

Spielman on whether he intends to keep Ponder on the roster for the rest of the season: "As of right now, yeah. We didn't make any other moves with our quarterbacks. ... I'm not going to announce any roster moves until tomorrow. We're going to discuss all our options tonight."

Spielman on why the Vikings needed to add Freeman:  "We look at the waiver wire every night. It just happened to be Josh Freeman on the waiver wire Thursday night. And I've had a lot of respect for Josh all the way to when he was coming out in the pre-draft process [in 2009], and how much time we spent with him before the draft that year. The other opportunity was to get just another quality football player. It just happens to be Josh Freeman, who just happens to be at the quarterback position. But that's what we do. We monitor the waiver wire every night and if there is anyone at any position who we feel can help our 53 and potentially improve our ballclub, we're always going to be aggressive and do that."

Spielman on looking into Freeman's character and the issues that led to his release in Tampa Bay:  "We pride ourselves on trying to do the best from a due diligence standpoint as possible. Like I said, we're very familiar with Josh from when he came out of Kansas State. Very familiar with him as a person and felt very comfortable and confident that we're bringing in not only a quality player but a quality person into our organization."

More from Spielman on what went wrong in Tampa Bay: "I'm not worried. I'm not going to reveal everything that we know or we don't know. I just know how we felt about him coming out. I know from talking to the people we've talked to about Josh. I don't know what happened down in Tampa. It's none of my business at all. All I know is Josh Freeman is a Minnesota Viking now and we're looking forward to moving on."

Freeman on what went wrong between him and Bucs coach Greg Schiano: “Obviously, he didn’t feel that I was the guy he wanted leading his team, the caliber quarterback he wanted behind center. But I have a lot of great memories there, a lot of good times with the fellas. … It’s 4 ½ cherished years, but times change, things progress. I’m just fired up to be here in Minnesota. I’m moving forward. This organization, everyone I’ve talked to just raves about the quality. That’s something I’m fired up about.”

Freeman on whether he was surprised to be released: "Was I surprised? I mean you're always surprised when you get released, I think. But I think things came to a head. It's not really something I'm looking back on. I like this moment, regardless of the situation."

Freeman on the vibe he got from meeting with members of the Vikings: "I don't know. It was down to earth. It was genuine. It was real. I could really appreciate that."

Freeman on how big a factor playing time and the chance to start was when he was picking a team to sign with: "That's interesting because right when I first got cut, it was `I'm going to get back in there right away.' But in all honesty, from a standpoint of a career move, something I really liked about the Vikings is they've got a guy. They've got a situation where I can come in and learn the system. Whether they call for me and need me to play, that's one thing. But it's just an opportunity to kind of pump the breaks. It's been pretty crazy the past few weeks."

Freeman on how he sees himself fitting into the Vikings offense: "I don't think there's a quarterback in the game of football that doesn't think they wouldn't be a good fit for this offense. I say that from the standpoint of the talent that is on this offense. It's kind of cliche, but a quarterback's best friend is the running back and the offensive line. They've got a lot of speed and a lot of talent on the outside. They got three incredibly talented tight ends. This offense is very talented."

Freeman on how it ended in Tampa Bay: "I think anybody in any situation, quarterback-wise, they always think they've got the skill, the potential to be the guy. I'm not going to say delusional, but I think you have to see yourself, your game through a different lense. Otherwise, you're not going to be the guy. You're not going to be the special guy because you're not going to truly think you deserve it when you're opportunity comes. I think me going through this past few months, until the coach called me down to his office and told me he was making a switch, that was the first moment I realized I wasn't going to be the guy moving forward. That hit me like that."

Freeman on a realistic timetable for him being able to step in and start: "At this point, I have no idea. I really don't. I've yet to have a chance to sit down with coach [Bill] Musgrave, [offensive coordinator], and go through the things to study as far as the offense goes. I don't know what this offense is going to be exactly. I've heard different things about it, but I've yet to get my hands on it."

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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