The circumstances surrounding the concussion suffered by Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman are curious, to say the least. He was fine during Monday night’s game, and by all appearances he was OK at his post-game press conference.
Presumably, nothing was amiss on the flight from New York (OK, New Jersey) back to Minnesota. As of Tuesday, coach Leslie Frazier said Freeman would start Sunday night’s game against the Packers.
Then, on Wednesday, Frazier announced out of the blue that Freeman has a concussion. As explained during Thursday’s PFT Live, the situation has sparked legitimate skepticism about whether Freeman actually has a concussion. I’m not accusing the Vikings or Freeman of faking it. But it’s an honest question to consider. Teams have been known to manipulate injury reports and twist truth for strategic reasons in the past. Here, a well-timed injury to Freeman allows the Vikings to give him more time to learn the offense, and then to re-insert him when he’s ready.
With the alternative being an admission that the Vikings shoved Freeman onto the field before he was ready, a concussion or any other injury would be strongly preferred.
Of course, some believe that Freeman may be faking it. Rodney Harrison of Football Night in America raised the possibility during a recent appearance on NBC Sports Radio.
“I can’t say that I believe he has a concussion,” Harrison said. “I can’t say that I’m 100 percent sold on it. I’m not trying to doubt the seriousness of his injury if he has one, but it just seems like a convenient excuse to get out of a situation. That’s what it seems like. Because maybe he’s looking around [and] saying, ‘You know what, maybe Greg Jennings is not as good as I thought. Maybe this wide receiving corps [isn't as good as I thought]. Adrian Peterson is struggling. Heck, I just want out of this situation. I can’t wait for this season to end.’”
It’s unlikely Freeman wants to shut it down for the year, given that he’ll be a free agent in March. At most, in our view, he’d be hoping to buy some time and learn the offense a little better, so that he can play a lot better before hitting the market.
And we know that he doesn’t know the offense very well because, for starters, the results speak for themselves. Also, the ever-positive (when on the air) Jon Gruden repeatedly called out the Vikings during Monday night’s game for rushing Freeman to the field.
“I don’t think it’s fair to [offensive coordinator] Bill Musgrave, I don’t think it’s fair to the head coach, Leslie Frazier, and it’s certainly not fair to Josh Freeman,” Gruden said during the broadcast. “He’s been here for two weeks. There’s no way he knows where all these receivers are supposed to be. This is not Major League Baseball where you trade a third baseman and put him in the lineup and bat him fifth.
“Bill Musgrave had to meet with Josh Freeman and find out what plays does Freeman like. Here’s the plays that we run. Now, let’s put the plays in that we both think will work against the Giants on Monday Night Football. Give me a break!”
Before the start of the second half, Gruden argued that Frazier should put Christian Ponder in the game, in an effort to try to win it. Early in the third quarter, Gruden made an observation that possibly hit the bull’s eye.
“Pretty soon, some of these Vikings players are gonna walk up and say, ‘Hey coach, let’s try to win this game.’ And I think to do that you’re gonna need a little more arsenal than Freeman’s ready for right now. . . . I appreciate all the things Freeman has been through. . . . This is very sophisticated, complex football and I just don’t know how much longer they can stay with Freeman in all fairness to the rest of these Vikings.”
The Vikings aren’t staying with Freeman, officially due to the concussion. Whether the truth is something else doesn’t matter. It’s what needed to happen, and now it has.