It certainly seemed fishy to a lot of people including yours truly, the way Josh Freeman so conveniently came down with “concussion-like symptoms” just days after putting up one of the worst quarterback performances in recent memory. The same fishy smell could be perceived wafting in from the general direction of Winter Park a few weeks back when Christian Ponder all of a sudden had a rib injury, giving the Vikings an excuse to sit him down and insert Matt Cassel.
But how does any of that make sense? Why make up fake injuries as cover stories for benching QBs? A couple reasons. 1) It saves the QB in question the public embarrassment associated with being benched for performance. 2) It helps lessen the perception that Rick Spielman has no idea what he is doing and is just throwing guys out there hoping someone will stick.
Sounds like conspiracy theory jive, the demented brainpoopings of a bored internet stooge. But what if the same theorizing comes from the mouth not of a mere blogger, but a national media figure like Rodney Harrison?
Yes Harrison has jumped on the Josh Freeman fake-concussion conspiracy theory bandwagon, but he’s giving it a little different twist. Most folks around Minnesota think Rick Spielman is responsible for cooking up the story so he can quietly shuffle Freeman aside for a week to work on his mechanics. This idea was perhaps lent a little extra credence on Thursday when it was announced that Freeman has been cleared to practice on Friday but will still not suit up on Sunday night.
Harrison sees things a little differently though. He believes Freeman is faking the concussion all by himself because he wants out of Minnesota.
“I can’t say that I believe he has a concussion,” Harrison told NBC Sports Radio. “I can’t say that I’m 100 percent sold out. 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.
“Maybe’s he’s looking around and saying, ‘You know, maybe Greg Jennings isn’t as good as I thought… Adrian Peterson is struggling. Heck I just want out of this situation, I can’t wait for the end of the season. I played safety at a high level for a long time and I was bangin’ and I never missed a game because of a concussion so it just seems like an excuse to me.”
I have to confess, I never thought of that particular angle. Freeman came into Minnesota thinking it would be a great second chance for him but after one game he realizes what a disaster the whole situation is and now he wants to force his way back out or at least figure out a way to spend the remainder of 2013 safely tucked away on the bench.
Nice theory but unfortunately it has a lot of holes. For one thing, how does sitting on the bench serve Freeman’s ultimate goal of scoring a long-term contract? He has to get out there and show teams he can play, and the Vikings are probably the only team willing to give him that shot. Any opportunity is better than none at this point for Freeman.
Also I refuse to believe Freeman is such a quitter that he would throw in the towel on this deal after one bad game. He’s been in the league long enough to know that you can turn things around pretty fast when you have good players, and the Vikings’ offense, despite its performance in recent weeks, does have good players including last year’s MVP.
I think Rodney is maybe selling Freeman short. If there is a conspiracy here, it makes much more sense for Rick Spielman to be behind it. Spielman brought Freeman in and forced Leslie Frazier to start him right away, so Spielman is the one who looks bad for Monday night’s performance. It would make sense for Spielman to want Freeman removed from this weekend’s game against the Packers so Freeman can work on his issues and go back in somewhere down the road when he’s got it straightened out.
The concussion does look like an excuse, as Harrison says, but the one with the interest in concocting the excuse is not Freeman himself, it’s the GM. Spielman wants to cover up the fact that he is completely in over his head with this whole QB mess, a mess he created by reaching to draft Christian Ponder in the first place.
Freeman is more a victim than a perpetrator in this whole thing. So too is Leslie Frazier, who is forced to go through the meat grinder with the media every week while Spielman lounges in comfort behind the scenes. And of course the fans are victims too because we have to watch this whole absurd melodrama unfold. The only happy ones are the bloggers who get to make hay out of the soap opera. Hey, that’s me!