Notebook: What Josh Freeman's start could mean for Christian Ponder
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - When quarterback Josh Freeman makes his first start as a Minnesota Vikings quarterback on Monday, it will be a month since quarterback Christian Ponder made what could be his last start in purple.
In that month since Sept. 22, Ponder has suffered - and healed - from a reportedly dangerous rib injury, watched as backup Matt Cassel led his team to victory and has now been usurped by an in-season free agent addition.
How about a trade as well?
"That's never crossed my mind that Christian [Ponder] wouldn't be on our roster, so it's not crossing my mind now," Coach Leslie Frazier said. "I don't see any scenario where he wouldn't be on our roster."
There are competing agendas at play in the Vikings organization, including general manager Rick Spielman's need to find the quarterback of the future, while Frazier needs to crank out a few more wins to keep his job after this season. Vikings' ownership picked up his 2014 option after last year's playoff appearance, but didn't extend him. He likely won't coach without a contract extension next year.
Ponder's rookie contract is up after 2014, but the Vikings have an option at the end of this season to add a costly fifth year onto his four-year deal. That likely won't happen after his 0-3 start this season, in which he contributed five interceptions and two fumbles.
So they'll roll the dice on Freeman, who is the only quarterback on the roster that has potential to be a mainstay. Frazier said his announcement on Wednesday to start Freeman was his decision, yet also said quarterback is too important for a coach to decide on his own.
"When you're talking about the quarterback position, which affects your entire franchise, this is not a decision that you make alone," Frazier said. "I informed [Spielman and ownership] what I was thinking and why I was thinking this and why I wanted to do it and they signed off on it.
"But no, you don't make these kind of decisions on an island. I need their support and I need them to understand why."
It's likely that Frazier's plan wasn't met with resistance because he was in line with what ownership and Spielman wanted -- Freeman, the $2 million free agent signing for at-most 11 games, getting a chance.
So when Frazier said he doesn't envision a way that Ponder gets removed from this roster, that decision also involves input from Spielman, ownership and Ponder - who didn't appear closed to the idea as he kept his helmet on during an interview after Wednesday's practice.
"I don't know," Ponder said. "Again, I have to figure out what's best for me and for this team. I don't know if that's staying here or going somewhere else, I don't know."
Frazier didn't leave out the possibility of Ponder starting for him again.
"For this season and for this ball game, primarily for this ball game, [Ponder] is going to be our backup quarterback in this game," Frazier said. "There's still so much football to be played. There are so many things that can happen over the course of the remaining parts of this season. I don't want to pigeonhole Christian by any means, but with Josh, we're hoping he does well. That's why we're putting him in the lineup."
Size him up
Listed at 6-foot-6, Freeman will be the tallest starting quarterback in Vikings franchise history next to 6-foot-5-inch slingers like Brad Johnson and Sean Salisbury.
To receiver Jerome Simpson, that matters.
"It's good that he's a taller quarterback, too, because you can see the ball coming out of his hand over our offense and the defensive line," Simpson said. "So it seems like he's going to be a good guy to work for."
Simpson said the quarterback carousel going on in Minnesota - three starting quarterbacks in six games - keeps receivers on their toes as they've had to adjust to each quarterback's reads and tendencies on the fly.
"We've just got to be more precise, you know, because [Freeman] really hasn't seen us that much," Simpson said. "But we've just got to be in the right position and just help him out as much as possible."
Hi, my name is...
Freeman has been a member of the Vikings locker room for 10 days and he's already been named the team's third starting quarterback of 2013.
"Anytime you step into a situation where you're the new guy, there's always kind of an awkward getting to know you phase," Freeman said.
A report earlier last week about former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King stated that Frazier wasn't necessarily on board with the Freeman signing, but Spielman surely led the march as he was high on Freeman during pre-draft work in 2009.
But, shortly after naming him the starting quarterback, Frazier praised Freeman's portfolio.
"I like the things that [Freeman] has done in his career along with the things he's done since he arrived here with our football team," Frazier said. "The time he's put in, how well he's adapting to our system and I like his work ethic. He's done enough for us to say we want to give him this opportunity, which is something we had in mind when we acquired him."
• Receiver Greg Jennings caught passes from three quarterbacks in his seven years with Green Bay: Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. On Monday, he'll likely catch a pass from his third different quarterback as a member of the Vikings in just his sixth game with the organization.