Despite taking most of the first-team reps over the Minnesota Vikings' 10 organized team activities, Matt Cassel takes nothing for granted in his quest to win the starting job.
Rookie Teddy Bridgewater has looked accurate and on point with his decisions and executions in the practice sessions open to the media over the last month, and the Vikings also have Christian Ponder, their starter last year at this time, still on the roster. The competition is nothing new for Cassel.
"In my entire career I've had to battle for a position. It started when I was a seventh-round draft pick coming into New England," Cassel said. "It's no different. Every single year I take the same approach. You just have to be ready to go out there and compete. When you're in it, it makes it all the more fulfilling. I feel good about where I'm at. These guys are kind of coming out and competing and pushing me every day and I'll do the same for them."
Ponder struggled last year in his two main chances to start in 2013 – at the beginning of the season and at midseason following turns given to Cassel and Josh Freeman. Cassel proved to be the best option on the roster and started the final four games of the season, although he wasn't exactly dominating in winning the job.
Cassel finished the season completing 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Ponder completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,648 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Although offensive coordinator Norv Turner said a rotation in training camp hasn't been established yet, he said they have to "get one guy ready to play and you've got to get two guys enough reps so they keep developing."
So far, Turner has liked what he's seen from Bridgewater.
"I think the things we liked about him (before the draft) are the things we like now. He's serious, he wants to be good and he's got great work ethic. Very sharp mentally," Turner said. "… He drops extremely quickly. He gets where he needs to be, faster than most guys I've been around, and he gets rid of the ball real quick."
Bridgewater missed two days of OTAs while attending the Rookie Premiere in California. There was an initial setback upon his return to practice, but Turner indicated it wasn't long-lasting.
"In the long run it's not an issue because we're going to make sure he has plenty of reps to get ready to play," Turner said.
While Cassel is expected to get the starting job at the beginning of the season, Bridgewater appears ready to challenge him. And Ponder knows where he stands in the final year of his contract.
All the competition could create a strange and uncomfortable dynamic in the quarterback meeting room and the locker room, but Cassel said that's not an issue.
"I think we have a great relationship. Our room is a great room. I've said this many times before, but a lot of people don't realize how much time you spend in the room with those guys throughout the course of the year. It's important to have a good room, supporting each other," Cassel said. "At the end of the day, we're all trying to be the best that we can be, but we're not trying to compete against each other in terms of being shady and not telling somebody this type of information. They're a teammate and we're going to go out and they're going to play the guy that gives them the best opportunity to win and it's our job to get prepared and ready to play. But at the end of the day, I don't hold ill will or grudges toward anybody that's going to come in and try to compete with me. That's just how it is."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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