MINNEAPOLIS -- With Teddy Bridgewater gone from the Vikings' final organized team activity of the week while he attends an NFL photo shoot in Los Angeles, the team's quarterback scene on Thursday looked the same as it did at the end of last season. Matt Cassel got most of the first-team snaps during Thursday's practice, with Christian Ponder backing him up and struggling with some of the throws he did make.
Both Cassel and Ponder threw an interception during 11-on-11 drills on Thursday, but Ponder had another screen pass that was nearly picked off by defensive end Corey Wootton, and he overthrew receivers on several downfield passes. Coach Mike Zimmer has talked about his desire for competition at quarterback, and Ponder will get his chances to win the job before the season, but in reality, there probably aren't many scenarios that would have the fourth-year quarterback on the field unless he's shown evidence of a major turnaround.
Cassel was given a two-year deal this offseason, ostensibly to be the quarterback of the present while Bridgewater gets ready for the future. The Vikings traded up to take Bridgewater earlier this month, and they didn't pick up Ponder's fifth-year option, meaning he'll be a free agent after this year. He'll be on the roster, and we've heard your concerns about him receiving first-team snaps during OTAs, but there's probably not much cause for hand-wringing here.
Quite often, the actions of NFL teams speak louder (and more directly) than their words, and nothing the Vikings have done would suggest a plan other than having Cassel start until Bridgewater is ready. There's a reason to have Ponder on the team -- if Cassel were to get hurt or was ineffective, and the Vikings didn't feel Bridgewater was ready, they'd have an option other than forcing the rookie onto the field -- but there's probably not much reason for fans to fret about him playing unless he's earned it. If he does? More power to him. He'll have had to show he's improved from his disappointing first three seasons in the league, and he'll have made the most of his chance in a system that doesn't seem to assure him of anything. But the Vikings' moves, to this point, would suggest we're a long ways from that happening.