Vikings put starters QB Cassel, G Fusco on season-ending IR
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Monday and Tuesday’s medical exams gave way to reality and roster moves Wednesday for the Minnesota Vikings in the wake of a damaging loss at New Orleans on Sunday.
The fallout included losing starters Matt Cassel and Brandon Fusco for the rest of the season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had sports hernia surgery Tuesday and is out at least a few weeks. Meanwhile, linebacker Chad Greenway’s status is in doubt as he deals with a broken rib and broken hand.
"Things happen in the NFL," Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said. "This is a survival of the fittest game. It’s always a marathon. The toughest teams always go. I think we have good coaches here, so we’ll continue to coach the guys that are playing as hard as we can and keep moving."
Already dealing with the loss of star running back Adrian Peterson to a pending legal case, the Vikings placed Cassel and Fusco on injured reserve. Zimmer said Rudolph could possibly be headed to injured reserve with the designation to return, which would keep him out eight weeks, but the team is hoping Rudolph could return sooner.
"It’s a possibility but until we get more information, probably not," Zimmer said. "We’re anticipating it’s not going to be that long."
Rudolph, who signed a five-year extension with Minnesota during training camp, was third on the team with 10 catches for 96 yards through three games. The Vikings added tight end Chase Ford to the active roster from the practice squad and signed Ryan Otten to the practice squad to help account for Rudolph’s absence.
Ford could get the chance to replace some of Rudolph’s production. Ford caught 11 passes for 133 yards in nine games last season.
Cassel broke his foot in Sunday’s 20-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints and his injury opened the door for rookie first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater to get his first action of the regular season. Bridgewater will start Sunday when Minnesota hosts the Atlanta Falcons.
Cassel, who re-signed with the Vikings in the offseason for two years, had thrown for 452 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He completed 57.7 percent of his passes and had a 65.8 quarterback rating.
"It’s disappointing professionally and personally," Cassel said. "You work so hard in the offseason to give yourself an opportunity to go out there and play, and to have it happen this early in the season, especially with the belief that I have in this team, the thoughts of going on and having lots of success this year, for it to happen this early is super devastating to me."
Cassel was on crutches Wednesday as he addressed reporters and he’s scheduled to fly to North Carolina to meet with Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist. A determination on surgery will be made later.
Cassel said he broke bones closer to his toes and he’s not dealing with a Lisfranc injury. He also dislocated his toe on the play which happened early in the second quarter Sunday when he was forced out of the pocket and was tackled by two Saints defenders.
"You go out there and you’re playing and you’ve got the adrenaline going and all that stuff," Cassel said. "I knew that my foot went numb when it happened and then I came off the field to the sideline. I dislocated my pinky toe, so when they popped that thing back in, I thought if that’s the extent of it that’s a good thing. But unfortunately they found some fractures in the foot and obviously we’ll have to deal with that."
Like Rudolph, Fusco was another 2011 draft pick who was signed to a five-year extension before the season’s first game. Fusco had started 34 of a possible 35 games for Minnesota the past three seasons.
Fusco will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Vladimir Ducasse replaced Fusco in the lineup Saturday and was working with the first-team line during position drills Wednesday. Joe Berger also has experience at guard and the team promoted Austin Wentworth to the active roster from the practice squad.
Zimmer said "it was probably not realistic" either Cassel or Fusco could return this season.
"It’s always tough when you lose guys, but this next-man-up theory, we go on," Zimmer said. "We feel bad for them, but we go on about what our business is. They’re both good guys, we wish them well in the rehab."
Greenway was held out of Wednesday’s practice but he was given the day off also, after his wife had given birth on Tuesday. Greenway said it’s "sort of wait and see" about his availability this week.
Greenway tried to play through the broken rib and hand Sunday.
"Go back and look at the tape and just couldn’t be nearly as effective as I needed to be," Greenway said. "That’s the unfortunate part. Obviously in this game injuries are going to happen and you have to deal with stuff. Sometimes you can’t deal with them as much as you thought you could have or it just becomes too much . . . I think at some point you just have to let yourself rest and that’s what we’ll do today and go from there."
Greenway is first among all active NFL linebackers with 90 consecutive games started, a streak that is in jeopardy again this week.
"I’ve always been able to figure out a way," Greenway said of playing through injuries. "Sometimes it’s tougher than others. But at this point, I just try to take it day to day and see how we’re feeling."
Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) didn’t practice Wednesday after leaving Sunday’s game early. Starting nose tackle Linval Joseph didn’t practice Wednesday and was listed on the injury report with a shoulder injury. Safety Harrison Smith (knee) and rookie linebacker Brandon Watts (knee) were limited.
The Vikings signed quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to the practice squad as well. Bethel-Thompson had spent parts of two seasons on Minnesota’s practice squad before being released last year.
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