Cassel or Ponder Vikings' starter … this week

Josh Freeman (J. Meric/Getty)

Eventually, Josh Freeman is expected to get the opportunity to start for the Vikings, but it won't be this week.

Newly acquired quarterback Josh Freeman won't be the Minnesota Vikings' starter on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, but in the future his ability to start was "part of the equation," according to coach Leslie Frazier.

"When we talked with him, that's definitely on the table, so we'll see how well he progresses and how well he picks up our offense," Frazier said.

After a 1-3 start to the season, the Vikings on Sunday agreed to a one-year contract with Freeman that will pay the fifth-year pro $2 million for the remainder of the season after he released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.

Frazier said either Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder would start against the Panthers, depending on Ponder's health as he recovers from a fractured rib. Ponder practiced on at least a limited basis Monday and was throwing the ball.

"It felt good. Very little pain, if any. I felt like I threw the ball pretty well, so it's a good start back," Ponder said after Monday's practice. "We threw over the bye week and things kept getting better and better every day. I'm feeling pretty good right now."

Frazier reiterated Monday that Ponder is the team's starter if healthy, at least for this week.

"He's still our starter, if he's healthy," Ponder said.

That was Frazier's assessment of Ponder before the Pittsburgh game, too, but after throwing on Thursday, the Vikings shut him down with his rib injury.

Cassel, who started on Sept. 29 and had a 123.4 passer rating in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, could be the logical choice Sunday given the fans booing Ponder in his last start at the Metrodome. For the season, Ponder has completed 59 of his 100 passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions and a 65.9 rating.

After talking with Frazier Monday morning after the Freeman signing, Ponder said the move isn't a blow to his confidence.

"I'm just focused on what I can do. We'll see how it plays out and I'm a man of faith so I believe that God's got my future in his hands. I don't know what that means. I'm trying to get healthy. I think ultimately it's going to make me a better quarterback."

"… It wasn't my decision and it's I guess what's best for the team. In my eyes, I'm getting prepared to play. As long as I play well, then I'm the one on the field."

Frazier said he didn't believe signing Freeman would hurt the team chemistry, but he admitted that it might affect Ponder's confidence.

"On the surface, he'd question that. He's human. I'm sure he has at times, but he just has to continue to work and work as hard as he can. And I think things will work out fine for Christian in the long term," Frazier said.

Cassel said he hasn't been told if he will start Sunday or not, but he didn't take the Freeman signing as a "slight" on his abilities.

"One thing you can expect in the NFL, expect the unexpected. Because every week it changes, you never know what's going to happen," Cassel said. "I learned that over time. This is my ninth year now. Anything that's overwhelming, or surprising, it's one of those things that's the NFL. My approach hasn't changed: continue to go out and work hard, do what I can and be accountable to my teammates and see what happens.

INJURY UPDATE

In addition to Ponder, TE Rhett Ellison, CB Chris Cook and S Jamarca Sanford were back practicing with the team after missing the Pittsburgh game because of injuries.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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