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Updated: October 9th, 2013 4:33pm
Freeman enters as third-sting quarterback, says no tension between QBs

Freeman enters as third-sting quarterback, says no tension between QBs

by Andrew Krammer
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Three paths merge in the Minnesota Vikings quarterback room this week as quarterbacks Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman have all started games in 2013.

During his first day at practice, Freeman insisted there's no animosity felt, despite all three quarterbacks vying for their futures with only 12 guaranteed starts left on the table. Freeman is a free agent after this season. Cassel has a second-year option. Ponder is done on his rookie deal after 2014.

"I don't even know if you'd call it tension," Freeman said. "It's a very good group of guys. I've been in a number of quarterback rooms, only having been with these guys for a day, they're great guys."

Coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman have stuck by Ponder as their 'starter,' yet both have said they're getting Freeman geared to play and begin his evaluation as their longterm answer. Spielman's agenda aforementioned, Frazier is coaching for his job after this year, as he likely won't coach the Vikings without an extension to his 2014 option.

Cassel took first-team reps during Wednesday's practice. Ponder returned from a rib injury he suffered in his last start on Sept. 22 and was in the backup role, with Freeman filling out the pecking order. Frazier has already ruled out Freeman to start on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, leaving either Cassel or Ponder to start.

It's unclear which quarterback will likely be listed as inactive, as Freeman said his goal this week is to learn limited packages that allow him to command the offense in 'emergency situations.' The severity of Ponder's rib injury should help decide if it's he or Freeman that doesn't suit up on Sunday with Cassel likely getting the start.

Either way, the starting quarterback job went from unsettled -- to a three-candidate race over the bye week, which only illuminated the writing on the wall that the Ponder experiment may well be over.

"[Keeping options open] might be a good way of putting it," Frazier said. "I don't know if it's from our standpoint a necessity to say on Wednesday what direction we want to go. There's no urgency in getting that done."

Freeman stood up and introduced himself to his teammates during a team meeting this week, but that's about the extent he's gotten to know his locker room-mates so far.

The fifth-year quarterback began learning the playbook on Monday night, but Frazier said there's no rushing the process to get Freeman on the field.

"Right now, [Freeman] is trying to get the language down. He's got to get the protections," Frazier said. "There's so much involved in what he has to get done. We'll do some things on the side. He may do some stuff off the cards with the scout team, but not with our first-team offense."

Former Kansas State football coach Ron Prince and Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave coached together at the University of Virginia and Freeman said his former coach Prince's terminology isn't all that different from Musgrave.

But Fraizer insisted it's not realistic to rush Freeman into a starting role this week. No timetable has been set on when he could potentially start. The Vikings have a full week inbetween Sunday's game and their Monday night matchup against the New York Giants on Oct. 21 to prep Freeman.

"I don't think he'll be able to digest our entire offense with the time that we have. With all the time you spend in the offseason getting ready for the season, to try to condense that in a short span and get ready for the season, we'll have to alter some things to get him on the field," Frazier said. "We won't be able to throw our entire playbook at him, but we can get that done. To put a timetable on it, it's hard to say today, with this being his first real action with us. We'll see how it goes as he progresses."

The elder of the group, Cassel said tension between the trio of recently-starting quarterbacks wouldn't benefit anyone in the situation.

"There's no tension in the quarterback meeting room. It's not like we're upset with Josh or Josh is upset with us or anything like that," Cassel said. "It's a management decision, and when you play in the NFL you know that they're going to bring people in and it's going to be [a] competition constantly."

Andrew Krammer covers the Minnesota Vikings for 1500ESPN.com. He previously covered the Gophers men's basketball team for the Minnesota Daily.
Email Andrew | @andrew_krammer
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