Ponder cleared; Cassel still likely QB

Updated: October 10, 2013, 9:47 PM ET
By Ben Goessling | ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, who fractured a rib two weeks ago, has been cleared to play, but Matt Cassel is the likely starter Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter Thursday.

Ponder said he has been told who would start, and while he wouldn't share any details, his answers suggested Cassel got the call.

"I would be lying if I didn't say it was a little disappointing and frustrating," Ponder said. "But I'm not going to get too discouraged about it. I'm a man of faith, and I know God's in control. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what the next few weeks, few months, holds. I don't know. We'll see how everything plays out. I'm working on a lot of things in practice and trying to get better as a quarterback."

With Ponder injured, Cassel led the Vikings to a 34-27 victory on Sept. 29 in London against the Steelers, Minnesota's only win of the season, and coach Leslie Frazier had said after the game he would determine who would start against Carolina after the bye week. On Monday, the Vikings signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman to a one-year, $2 million deal, a signal that the team's commitment to Ponder -- the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft -- might be ending.

Frazier said on Monday that Ponder was still the team's starting quarterback if he was healthy, and Ponder said he was "definitely" ready to go against the Panthers. But he also admitted "the dynamics of this organization have changed."

On Thursday, Frazier said he was going to wait until after Friday's practice to announce a starter, and added he hadn't told the entire team his plan at the quarterback position. But Cassel practiced with the first team Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's not an open competition," Frazier said. "I just want to make sure that I'm doing the right thing. We'll go through practice tomorrow, see where those guys are, and just do the best thing for our team."

Ponder said he's had "some conversations" with Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman about his future in Minnesota, and added a trade would be "difficult to deal with," but he put on a brave face Thursday as he talked about his standing with the Vikings.

"I spent a little time worrying about it, and realized that's no good. It's not going to help me out," Ponder said. "My focus is on what I can control, and that's getting healthy, which I have been doing, and getting better on the football field, which I feel like I have been doing.

"We've had some conversations. We've sat down and talked about everything. But again, the plan is to still be here and to still prepare as the starter and be ready at all times. We'll see how things play out. You never know."

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this report.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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