Vikings start yet another week with QB unsettled

The quarterback in use at the end of all three wins by the

Minnesota Vikings this season has been Matt Cassel.

For all of the sparks he has provided to the Vikings’ uneven

offense, Cassel has begun another week without clarity on his place

on the depth chart. Coach Leslie Frazier declined Monday to declare

Cassel the new starter, despite a concussion for Christian Ponder

the coach said he’s ”concerned about.”

That doesn’t mean Cassel won’t be back under center this weekend

when the Vikings (3-8-1) play at Baltimore. Frazier, however, said

there’s no rush to decide.

”Just going to see where Christian is as we get into the week a

little bit and see how things go as we move forward,” Frazier

said.

Ponder must pass NFL protocol testing to be cleared. If he

doesn’t recover in time, Frazier and the Vikings again wouldn’t

even have to bench him, per se. Prior to playing Pittsburgh Sept.

29 in London, Ponder was ruled out because of a broken rib. Cassel

passed for 248 yards, a team-high total this season, and the

Vikings were victorious.

Ponder took a hit to the head late in the second quarter Sunday

against Chicago. So, Frazier was asked, why not name Cassel the

starter now after his performance in the 23-20 overtime triumph by

the Vikings?

”You could easily do that, but I think for us it would be wise

to talk things through,” Frazier said, glancing at his wristwatch.

”There’s no reason at this point on Monday at 12:40 that we have

to make a decision. We can talk it through and do what’s best. But

Matt did a terrific job in relief yesterday afternoon leading our

team to victory.”

Cassel completed 20 of 33 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown

and one interception in just the second half. His throw to Rhett

Ellison was on target but bobbled at the goal line by the backup

tight end late in the fourth quarter and picked off by Khaseem

Greene. Cassel even raced over to make a forceful tackle of Green

at midfield.

”I was upset. I was playing with anger. I hope he felt that,

too,” Cassel said, laughing.

The nine-year veteran has basically been counted out of the

quarterback carousel since Josh Freeman replaced him Oct. 21 for

that cringe-worthy Monday night game against the New York Giants.

That was Freeman’s only turn, and Ponder has been the starter

since.

Though Ponder played one of his best games in the Nov. 7 win

over Washington, Cassel came in after Ponder dislocated his

shoulder. He went 4 for 6 for 47 yards in the fourth quarter that

night. But Frazier has said for several weeks he believes Ponder

gives the Vikings their best opportunity for victory, leaving

Cassel as the backup.

”We’ve definitely had some discussions about where he is and

his role. But he’s been a pro throughout,” Frazier said.

Cassel said Monday he doesn’t know why he hasn’t been considered

as a starter since the Oct. 13 game against Carolina, a 35-13

defeat by a Panthers team that hasn’t lost since then.

”I don’t make those types of decisions. At the same time, I’m

not always in agreement with what decision they might go,” Cassel

said. ”But at the same time, you deal with those decisions.”

Frazier didn’t directly answer a question about whether Freeman

will be considered to start against the Ravens. He was inactive

Sunday against the Bears for the sixth time in eight weeks on the

roster.

In less than three full games with Cassel running the offense

(against Pittsburgh and Carolina, plus the fourth quarter against

Washington and the second half against Chicago), Greg Jennings has

15 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been thrown to

21 times.

The rest of his first season with Minnesota, with Ponder and

Freeman? Merely 28 receptions for 315 yards and no scores. That’s

over more than eight full games, targeted a total of 50 times.

”I can’t speak enough high regards to what he did. I’ve said

this in the past: He approaches every week as though he’s the

starter, so when it is his opportunity to step up and make plays

he’s ready,” Jennings said of Cassel. ”He prepares like a pro

should prepare every week. Hat goes off to him.”

Cassel said he appreciates the ”football mind” Jennings brings

to the field. The same was being said of Cassel.

”He’s been in this league a long time, and you can’t throw too

much at him that he hasn’t seen,” right tackle Phil Loadholt said.

”So we’ve got full confidence in Matt.”

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