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Vikings Not Ready To Unleash Josh Freeman On Panthers, Will Start Ponder Or Cassel On Sunday

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By Ted Fleming

The Vikings made some news late Sunday night by winning the Josh Freeman sweepstakes and while the former Buccaneers quarterback may have found a new home, don’t expect him to be under center when they host the Panthers this weekend.

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs play against the New Orleans Saints September 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 (Credit, Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Head coach Leslie Frazier does not believe that Freeman will be fully up to speed with the Vikings offense and he told reporters that either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel will get the nod. Going forward it should be a different story because the team did not give their new acquisition $3 million to be a backup.

Ponder’s future with the franchise was in doubt even before Freeman’s arrival. Despite going 10-6 a year ago, the Vikings did not seem comfortable with the former first round pick out of Florida State as their franchise quarterback. Many believed Adrian Peterson had a bigger impact on the club with his amazing MVP comeback after tearing his ACL and MCL when he rushed for 2,097 yards falling eight short of the all-time record.

The signing of Freeman only solidifies the perception of Ponder.

The Panthers may be coming off an ugly loss to the Cardinals, but they still have a formidable front seven and that could spell trouble for a quarterback that is already on shaky ground. That is, if he is healthy enough to play.

Ponder missed the game in London against the Steelers with a fractured rib near his heart and the Vikings only win of the season came in that game courtesy of Matt Cassel. The former Patriots and Chiefs signal caller gave the Vikings a much needed shot in the arm going 16-25 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and, more importantly, no interceptions. Peterson added 140 yards on the ground and two more TDs in the 34-27 victory.

Minnesota is in a division with Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay, arguably the most balanced in the NFC, but they cannot afford to fall deeper into the cellar. It really makes no difference whether Ponder or Cassel starts this Sunday because they probably know it will be a long time before they get another chance with Josh Freeman waiting in the wings.

NOTES:

Josh Freeman was in the final year of his rookie contract when he was released by the Buccaneers and would have become a free agent at the end of the season.

The 25-year-old Freeman has thrown for 13,534 yards in 60 games with 80 TDs against 66 interceptions and a 78.8 passer rating.

The signing of Freeman creates a logjam at quarterback and the Vikings are expected to drop third-stringer McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS BY THE NUMBERS
2013 Record: 1-3
Record vs. Panthers: 6-2
Streak vs. Panthers: W1
Last Meeting: Minnesota 24, Carolina 21 (10/30/11) in Charlotte NC
Next Game: Sunday, Oct. 13 at Mall of America Field (64,111), Minneapolis, MN @ 1:00 p.m.

For more Carolina Panthers news and updates, visit Carolina Panthers Central.

Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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