The Minnesota Vikings’ injury issues are beginning to make a lasting impact, with starting quarterback Matt Cassel and starting right guard Brandon Fusco being placed on season-ending injured reserve on Wednesday.
Cassel broke several bones in his left foot on a 5-yard scramble at the beginning of the second quarter and Fusco injured a pectoral muscle on Sunday, too. Neither was able to return after their injuries.
Cassel was scheduled to visit a foot specialist on Thursday.
He finished the season completing 41 of 71 passes (57.7 percent) for 425 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions and a 65.8 passer rating.
Bridgewater, who replaced Cassel after the foot injury, completed 12 of 20 passes (60 percent) for 150 yards and finished Sunday’s game with an 83.3 rating.
“The kid has all the talent in the world,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Bridgewater. “He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s a quick thinker. He makes quick decisions, he’s quick with his feet, quick with his drops. So, I’m excited about watching him, especially here at home in front of our fans.”
Fusco was turning into one of the better guards in the league, center John Sullivan said during training camp, and his loss might be felt more than Cassel.
“He’s an excellent guard and unfortunately injuries are a part of football,” Sullivan said on Monday. “… That’s the NFL and the next guy has got to step up.
“Guys are expected to come in and function along with the rest of the team. We’re not going to change anything for anybody specifically.”
Fusco had started 37 regular-season games for the Vikings, including 34 of the past 35, and their 2011 playoff game. He was ranked the 14th-best guard in the league this year by Pro Football Focus. He is scheduled to have surgery on Thursday to repair the torn pectoral muscle.
Taking the spots held by Cassel and Fusco on the 53-man roster are tight end Chase Ford and offensive lineman Austin Wentworth. Both were on the team’s the practice.
The Vikings also signed quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and tight end Ryan Otten to the practice squad.
The multiple moves with tight end are necessary because the Vikings also lost former Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph to a sports hernia during Sunday’s 20-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Rudolph was scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday with Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia. He is expected to be out six weeks and could be be an option for the injured reserve/designated-for-return list, but Zimmer said he was hopeful he wouldn't be out that long. That would require him to miss at least six weeks of practice and he could return after eight weeks. Each team is allowed only one injured player to be designated for return each season.
“It’s a possibility, but until we get more information, probably not,” Zimmer said of the short-term injured reserve list. “We’re anticipating he’s not going to be that long.”
“You never plan on having this many injuries as you have, but we’re not going to make excuses about it,” Zimmer said. “I still believe that the best team, guys that play together, play the hardest, make the fewest mistakes are going to win. Our expectation level is the guy that comes in has to come in and perform like he’s supposed to. So, our expectation level doesn’t change because of injuries.”
Vikings’ Cassel, Fusco done for season
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