Up for grabs; Vikings in no rush to name starting QB
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Head coach Mike Zimmer is not ready to name veteran Matt Cassel the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014.
Zimmer said Tuesday he isn’t ready to set the depth chart with Cassel at the top, rookie Teddy Bridgewater as the understudy and former first-round flameout Christian Ponder a training camp body who will hang out on the roster until his contract expires at the end of the season.
And based on the minicamp session at the team facility Tuesday, Zimmer is keeping the door open for at least Bridgewater to make a fight of it in Mankato, Minn., at training camp next month.
While Cassel took the majority of the starter’s reps and Bridgewater ran the first team for two series — Ponder definitely looked primed for the camp arm role as a practice afterthought — Zimmer kept his cards snugly tucked against his chest.
“I’ve never said (Cassel is the favorite),” Zimmer said. “I know I’ve heard other people say it, but I’ve never said it.”
Based on the number of cumulative first-team reps during offseason practices open to the media, Cassel is No. 1 while Bridgewater, the rookie first-round draft pick, has moved past Ponder as the No. 2 quarterback.
“I want to give everyone an opportunity and make sure it’s a legitimate opportunity for all of them,” Zimmer said. “Then we’ll start narrowing down the reps as we get going. But it won’t be for a while.
“The thing I want to guard against the most is rushing into a decision where we make a decision quickly as opposed to making the correct decision. Our main focus now is making the correct decision not so much for the fans or the media or anybody else on the football team.”
In Houston on Tuesday, Cassel’s former tutor Bill O’Brien named veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter for the Texans. Most quarterback situations around the league are set.
The Vikings won’t take measures to designate a starter any time soon.
Bridgewater’s poise, quick release and work ethic could actually make a competition of it with Cassel, who came to Minnesota prior to last season as Ponder’s backup and overtook him as the No. 1 quarterback under then-head coach Leslie Frazier.
Cassel has done nothing in his career to suggest that he has the consistency over the long haul to hold off a rookie first-round draft pick for an entire season. He was 3-3 in 2013, 1-7 with the Chiefs in 2012 and won four games for Kansas City in 2011 and 2009. He is 32-36 as a starting quarterback.
“We’ve got time,” Zimmer said. “Everybody wants to rush into things but it’s more important that we make the right decision. When we do, then we’ll go with it and hope it’s the right call.”
Kalil coming back slowly
Left tackle Matt Kalil, who took a step back last year from his Pro-Bowl rookie season, was sidelined throughout most of the OTAs because of what he has described as minor knee surgery.
Kalil hasn’t participated in the limited number of OTAs that have been open to the media this offseason. He didn’t participate when reporters were allowed to watch on Wednesday, but said he did participate on Tuesday.
“I was out there (Tuesday) maybe pushing myself a little too hard, so I had to scale back (Wednesday),” Kalil said. “But I’m getting closer and expect to be ready to go soon.”
Menu gets tweaked
There is no area in which the team’s new coaching regime didn’t look to improve when it took over in January. And that includes what the players eat while at team headquarters or in next month’s training camp.
For instance, the Vikings have removed bacon, fried items, mayonnaise and creamy-based sauces from their menu.
Coach Mike Zimmer said the approach is helping the team. He claims the team has lost a combined 170 pounds of fat and gained 70 pounds of muscle.
“It’s a collective effort,” Zimmer said. “The strength coaches and trainers brought it to my attention. So, heck, I think even (general manager) Rick (Spielman) said he’s lost some weight.
“I think I’ve actually lost weight too, but I think that’s from stress. I’m eating fish every day for lunch. That’s a change for me too.”
Rookie first-round pick Anthony Barr will be with the team for minicamp after finally ending his college course work at UCLA, where the quarters system ran through June 13. Barr, the ninth overall pick in May and Minnesota’s presumed starting strong-side linebacker, earned a 3.0 GPA at UCLA entering exam week, when he was divvying his attention between the iPad loaded by the Vikings coaching staff with defensive assignments and terminology and preparation for a commencement ceremony six days before minicamp opened.