Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
The announcement that came as no surprise to anyone outside of the organization was of no surprise to the two participants as well.
Matt Cassel, were you surprised to be named the Vikings starting quarterback this morning?
“To be honest with you, I worked tremendously hard this offseason to put myself in this position,” he said. “I’m excited that it’s gone the way it has. I played well in the preseason and I’m excited that the coach has given me the confidence and the trust to name me the starter.”
What about you, runner-up Teddy Bridgewater? Are you surprised?
“Not at all,” he said. “Matt has been playing some good football so far. He’s been great at mentoring the guys in the room. It was an overall team decision and I’m very excited for Matt.”
Cassel praised Bridgewater’s play — which includes a preseason with no turnovers and a passer rating of 117.1 — and Bridgewater returned the compliments later on.
“I take my hats off to Matt,” Bridgewater said. “He’s been playing great this preseason. I’m just going to continue to learn under him.”
For Cassel, today’s news was the latest in a wild ride that’s seen him go from Tom Brady’s backup to beloved Pro Bowler in Kansas City, to despised outcast to last year’s three-headed quarterbacking fiasco in Minnesota to redeemed starter heading into the regular season opener at St. Louis on Sept. 7.
“I’ve been through a lot in my career,” he said. “I’ve been through the ups, I’ve been through the downs. I’ve been through the highs and the lows, so at this point, nothing really surprises me in my career. So I think because of those, it calluses you to a few different situations that as a younger player, I might not have taken it as well.”
Meanwhile, Bridgewater, the rookie first-round draft pick, said he hasn’t changed his initial opinion about the Vikings and how he fits into their future.
“As I stated once I got drafted, I felt like this was the perfect situation for me,” he said. “Right now, I’m just able to learn, sit back and continue to learn, but also learn and prepare myself as a starter because as a backup you’re one play away from being out there on the gridiron with the guys.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer just made the big announcement that should have surprised no one.
“Matt Cassel will be the starter going into the season,” Zimmer said after the morning walkthrough.
Zimmer told the team this morning that he would go with Cassel over rookie Teddy Bridgewater for the season opener in St. Louis, now just 13 days away. Cassel has started every preseason game, completing 66.7 percent of his attempts for 367 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“Matt did not do anything to lose the job this preseason,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s played great. I think the team has a lot of confidence in him. They feel good about the veteran leadership and presence, and I had to think about the whole football team. It wasn’t just about the quarterbacks. It’s not always the best player at that position — and I’m not saying that Matt’s not. … It’s all about how everything works together. And at this stage, where we’re at right now, it’s the best thing to do.”
Zimmer had a conversation with Bridgewater about the decision, and he said that the first-round pick handled it well. He pointed out that Bridgewater was in this position his first year at Louisville.
“I told Teddy this morning that I’m so happy that he’s here with us,” Zimmer said. “I’m glad he’s the guy we picked. I love everything that he’s done. It wasn’t anything that Teddy did or didn’t do. Teddy will be still, in my estimation, a great player for this franchise for years to come.”
After an uneven performance in his first preseason game, Bridgewater has been efficient, and he led a game-winning drive in the second. He has completed 26 of his 40 attempts for 266 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and his passer rating is 117.3, better than Cassel’s 103.3.
While Zimmer has confidence in Cassel — who has started 68 NFL games, including six here last season — he did indicate that Cassel will have to play well early in the season to hold onto his job.
“We will hold the quarterback position to the exact same expectations as we do every other position. If you perform, you play. If you don’t, then somebody else will get an opportunity at some point,” Zimmer said. “That position, just like the outside linebacker spot, we have an expectation for performance. And as long as those guys perform, they’ll play.”
The Vikings trimmed their roster from 90 to 76 players on Monday, announcing 14 players that were either released or waived due to injury.
Safety Brandan Bishop, defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, tight end Kory Sperry, tackles Kevin Murphy and Pierce Burton, cornerbacks Derek Cox and Robert Steeples, defensive ends Tyler Scott and Jake Snyder and wide receivers Andy Cruse, Kamar Jorden, Erik Lora and Ty Walker were all released by the team. Safety Mistral Raymond (hamstring) was also waived with an injury designation.
The Vikings also activated tight end Chase Ford off the physically unable to perform list. Ford missed all of training camp and the preseason due to a broken left foot.
The Vikings still need to make one more cut by Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT. All 32 teams must have their rosters set to a maximum of 75 players at that time.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer informed his players this morning that Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback for the season opener against the Rams, according to a FOX Sports report.
Cassel had been battling first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater for the chance to start. But despite impressive preseason numbers from Bridgewater, which included four touchdown passes and no interceptions, it was clear throughout the summer that Cassel was firmly entrenched as the starter.
Cassel got the majority of the first-team reps during training camp and started every preseason game for the Vikings. He played nearly three quarters of Saturday night’s 30-12 win over the Chiefs.
Bridgewater, meanwhile, only received reps with the first-team offense in the preseason opener.
Since drafting Bridgewater in May, Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman have said that they do not want to rush Bridgewater onto the field before he is ready. And they re-signed Cassel before even picking a quarterback to be the bridge to whoever their next quarter of the future would be.
Zimmer is expected to formally announce his decision at a press conference later this morning.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— What have we learned about the Vikings during their 3-0 preseason start?
— RT Phil Loadholt is going to be OK after injuring his ankle the other night.
— The Vikings won’t be facing Rams QB Sam Bradford in the season opener.
— Head coach Mike Zimmer has yet to name his starting quarterback.
— Zimmer’s defense flashed potential in Saturday’s win over the Chiefs.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Say what you want about the preseason. Winning is contagious.. I love the way this TEAM goes to work!! #Vikings
— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) August 24, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Packers NT Josh Boyd is ready to step in for the injured B.J. Raji.
— The Bears defense took a step back in a blowout loss to the Seahawks.
— Lions rookie OLB Kyle Van Noy is worried that he has a sports hernia.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings return to Winter Park for two days of practice before heading to Nashville. Zimmer will talk before practice and the locker room will be open to media. Practice begins at 12:50 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The Vikings have gone undefeated in the preseason six times in their history, but a perfect preseason is no guarantee for regular-season success. In four of the seasons, they had a winning record and in three they made the playoffs. One of their undefeated preseasons was 1973, when they advanced all the way to the Super Bowl. But the last time they went undefeated was 2001, the year after their 41-0 loss in the NFC title game. They would go 5-11 that season.
|Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Arrieta||2||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: D. Axelrod||7|
|NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley||2||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: P. Coke||3|
|Colorado - LP: J. Lyles||1||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit||4|
|Tampa Bay - LP: K. Yates||4||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: A. Miller||5|
|Atlanta - WP: M. Minor||6||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: J. Niese||1|
|Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco||3||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Danks||2|
|Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak||11||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: B. Chen||5|
|Texas - LP: R. Mendez||2||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: C. McHugh||4|
|Oakland - LP: R. Cook||3||FINAL|
|LA Angels - WP: F. Salas||4|
|(21) Texas A&M||52||FINAL|
|(9) So Carolina||28|
|(18) Ole Miss||35|
|(19) Arizona State||45|
|(6) Jacksonville St||6:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Bowling Green||6:30 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||8:00 PM|
|Colorado State||8:00 PM|
|Penn State||8/30/14 7:30 AM|
|Troy||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) UCLA||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Mich||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(5) Ohio State||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Appalachian St||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Ga Southern||8/30/14 11:30 AM|
|Boston College||8/30/14 2:00 PM|
|West Virginia||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Rice||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|California||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Marshall||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|Arkansas||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||8/30/14 4:30 PM|
|Liberty||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||8/30/14 6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|North Texas||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||8/30/14 8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|Utah State||8/31/14 6:00 PM|
|SMU||8/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||9/1/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||9/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 3:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/5/14 6:30 PM|
|Calgary||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/7/14 3:00 PM|