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The Sports Xchange, Published December 03 2013

Quarterback shuffle back in play for Vikings after Ponder injury

MINNEAPOLIS – After six consecutive starts and one week without facing questions about who will start at quarterback, Christian Ponder’s short and long-term status with the Vikings is once again up in the air.

A concussion suffered with 1 minute, 18 seconds left in the first half of Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win over the Bears at Mall of America Field was Ponder’s third injury of the season and the second one to knock him out of a game.

But even if Ponder passes the NFL-mandated protocol for returning from a concussion this week, coach Leslie Frazier is looking at changing quarterbacks for non-injury reasons for the fourth time in 13 games.

“Matt did a good job in relief,” Frazier said. “We’ll monitor Christian’s health throughout the week and we’ll sit down and talk as a staff to see what’s the best direction to go.”

Although Ponder left with a 7-6 lead, it wasn’t because of anything he did particularly. He had three completions in eight attempts for 40 yards and a 54.2 passer rating. In six first-half possessions, the Vikings punted five times.

With Cassel in, the passing game came alive and was a complement to a running game that featured a franchise-record 35 carries for 211 yards for Adrian Peterson.

When the pass defense gave up two long third-quarter touchdowns to fall behind 20-10, it was Cassel who calmly directed two fourth-quarter scoring drives to tie the game with a 30-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation. Cassel then worked in conjunction with Peterson in the overtime, completing three passes to Greg Jennings for 38 yards.

“I can’t speak enough in high regards to what (Casse) did,” said Jennings, who had six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown with Cassel and one catch for two yards with Ponder. “We sort of see the same things and you know he’s been in the game a long time, so he’s seen a lot of defenses and understands what they’re going to throw at him. I think we share that same mindset when it comes to that, but it’s one of those things where he kind of just finds the guys.”

Cassel is 1-1 as a starter this season. He beat the Steelers in London in Week 4, but then lost his job after losing at home to Carolina 35-10 the following week.

Josh Freeman started the next game against the Giants in New York on Monday Night Football. It came after just the recently signed Freeman had practiced only four times with the first team.

Freeman flopped miserably and Frazier went back to Ponder. But now, with Ponder ineffective and Freeman obviously unable to get up to speed quick enough, Cassel is the no-brainer pick to start at quarterback on Sunday in Baltimore.

Cassel, as usual, chooses to deflect questions that could further add to what’s been a season-long quarterback controversy.

“You know what, I don’t make those decisions,” he said. “I might not always agree with it, but at the same time, my job is to go out there and be prepared and be accountable to those guys in that locker room.”