EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- While Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman jockey for playing time this week -- Ponder was the first quarterback taking snaps during individual drills in practice on Wednesday, and left the field first while Freeman worked with practice squad receiver Adam Thielen -- the one Minnesota Vikings quarterback not in the running to start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys is the only one that has led them to a win this season.
Matt Cassel came to the Vikings in March expecting to back up Ponder, and the Vikings' hierarchy at quarterback stayed undisturbed until September, when Ponder threw five interceptions during an 0-3 start and fractured a rib on Sept. 22 against the Cleveland Browns. When the Vikings said Ponder was unable to play on Sept. 29 in London, Cassel stepped in and threw for 248 yards, leading the Vikings to a 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He started the team's first game after its bye week against the Carolina Panthers, but threw two interceptions in a 35-10 loss, and has watched both Freeman and Ponder start games since then.
Looking back on it on Wednesday, Cassel wondered if he'd still be starting had he not thrown those two interceptions, or if the Vikings had won the game against Carolina. Now, he's trying to help from the sidelines while quelling his frustration about whether he'll get another opportunity this year.
"I think if I could take anything back from that game, it would be trying to pull that ball down on the first one and the second one, as well," Cassel said. "I think they made a decision to go look at Josh, and obviously Christian was a starter and lost his job to injury. He's getting another opportunity, as well. We'll just play it by ear."
Cassel can opt out of his contract after this season, though he might be past the point where teams consider him a long-term fixture at the position. He's 31, and will have been out of a full-time starting role for three seasons once this year is over. Both Ponder and Freeman are 25, and it seems like the Vikings might be giving both quarterbacks preference over Cassel because if one of them can figure things out at the position, they could fit better into the team's future plans.
The quarterback said he talked with Frazier after the team signed Freeman on Oct. 7. He started the first game after Freeman signed with the team, but was inactive for the next one on Oct. 21 against the New York Giants.
"Unfortunately, I don't make the decisions," Cassel said. "Coach Frazier and whoever's making the decision decided to go this direction. As a player, you might not always agree with it, but you accept it and continue to work hard. ... I don't look at the situation as, 'Why are they doing this? Why are they doing that?' If you try and answer those questions, a lot of times as a player you can get in your own head. For me, all I can control is myself. I can just continue to come out and work hard and if my opportunity comes up again, I’ll be prepared and ready to go."