Matt Cassel to start at quarterback for Vikings against Steelers in London
Those Minnesota Vikings fans eager to see what their team’s offense would look like with Matt Cassel at quarterback instead of Christian Ponder are about to get their wish. As the Vikings prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL’s annual London experiment, the news came out that Ponder was suffering from a rib injury and might not be able to go against Pittsburgh’s defense.
And on Friday morning, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier confirmed that Ponder has a broken rib too near to his heart to make playing safe under any circumstances. Frazier said that Ponder had a CT scan Monday, which revealed the damage Ponder suffered in last Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns.
“They just made a decision for what’s best for me and my health and this team,” Ponder said. “It stinks, but it is what it is. But I’ll be back for Carolina.”
Ponder, who has completed 59 of 100 passes for 691 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions this season, said that he’s not worried about Cassel taking his job if he plays well. The Vikings signed Cassel to a two-year, $7.4 million contract in March to back up Ponder.
“I hope he plays well,” Ponder said. “This team needs him to play well.”
Cassel first hit the scene when he played decently for the 11-5 New England Patriots in 2008 after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the season. He was able to parlay that into a six-year, $63 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, but was cut by the team after the 2012 season.
Interestingly enough, it was Brady who first broke the news that Cassel might start. On Wednesday, Brady was asked about his relationships with his former backup quarterbacks.
“Yeah, we have a great relationship and a very close relationship,” Brady said. “The backup quarterback, there’s only been two of us, [current Browns starter] Brian [Hoyer] and I at one time and now myself and Ryan Mallett. We have a great rapport. I’m friends with all those guys. Matt Cassel I talk to – he may be starting this weekend. Brian, we text back and forth and talk with him. It’s great to see him and it’s hard work really pays off and guys that stay at it and are mentally tough, always trying to do the right thing, like Brian has done, like Matt has done, like Ryan Mallett has done, it’s great when they finally get an opportunity to play.”
So, Cassel will get another opportunity to play. And while it’s possible that he could take the job from Ponder via injury as Brady once did to Drew Bledsoe, Cassel has showed few Brady-esque characteristics. When the Chiefs relied on him to be the main man, he completed 57.4 percent of his passes, throwing 59 touchdowns to 44 interceptions. Then again, that might be preferable to Ponder’s 59.2 completion percentage, 33 touchdowns and 30 picks since he was selected by the Vikings in the first round of the 2011 draft.
“He has great composure. You can just tell he has that leader in him. It’s good to have him in the huddle,” receiver Jerome Simpson said of Cassel. “We still love Christian, but it’s the next guy up if a guy is injured.”