Frazier: Christian Ponder is starter
Coach Leslie Frazier made it clear there won't be a quarterback controversy for the Minnesota Vikings now that Matt Cassel has signed with the team, telling the NFL Network that Christian Ponder is the team's starter.
Deep Passing: Ponder vs. Cassel
Christian Ponder (right) posted the lowest completion percentage of passes targeted 21 to 30 yards downfield in 2012 and completed fewer passes targeted more than 30 yards downfield than any other full-time starter. By comparison, Matt Cassel isn't any better.
"Christian Ponder is our starting quarterback. Matt knows that, he knew it when we went through the acquisition," Frazier said in the interview from the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, which aired Monday morning.
"[Cassel] knows that he's coming in to provide insurance for us. If something were to happen to Christian injury-wise, we have a quality backup that can step in and do a great job for us," Frazier said. "Christian just needs to continue to improve like we all expect him to, but he's our starting quarterback."
Cassel signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Vikings last week after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs. He said last week in a conference call after signing his deal that "the fact of the matter is, Christian is the starting quarterback."
That hasn't stopped speculation, however, that the quarterback job is up for grabs. A source told ESPN last week when Cassel signed with Minnesota that he would get a chance to compete for the starting quarterback position.
Ponder has a history of injuries both in college and his first two seasons in the NFL, including last season, when he was unable to play in the playoff game against Green Bay because of an arm injury. That forced the Vikings to start backup Joe Webb, who faltered badly in the 24-10 loss.
Seifert on Cassel's Contract
A closer look at Matt Cassel's contract supports the Vikings' insistence that Christian Ponder is the team's starter, Kevin Seifert writes. Blog
Cassel was a career backup in college at Southern Cal, then spent his first three seasons in the NFL buried on the bench behind Tom Brady. When Brady went down with a knee injury in 2008, Cassel stepped in and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record. He was traded to Kansas City before the next season.
After making the Pro Bowl with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his second season in Kansas City in 2010, Cassel and the Chiefs struggled the next two years. He threw six touchdowns and 12 interceptions in nine games last season for the 2-14 Chiefs, who cut him with two years left on his contract.
Ponder made an appearance at the owners' meetings Monday and was asked what he thought of the still-forming group of pass-catchers at his disposal.
"Having a guy like [tight end] Kyle [Rudolph], everyone knows our chemistry together and his ability as a player," Ponder said. "He was the Pro Bowl MVP. Him and adding Greg, he's obviously a great player as well. Jerome, he's going to be so much better having another year under his belt. I'm sure we'll take a guy or two in the draft, guys that can step up and play early.
"But having Adrian Peterson in the backfield helps. So I think we're really coming together as an offense."
Information from ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and The Associated Press was used in this report.