Frazier: Josh Freeman won't play Sunday, Cassel or Ponder to start
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said quarterback Christian Ponder still has a 'bright future' with the team, despite their aggressive bye-week move to sign free agent QB Josh Freeman on Sunday.
Frazier said Freeman, who still has to pass a physical on Monday, won't play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers as he gets up to speed with the offense. Either Ponder or backup quarterback Matt Cassel will get the nod.
"I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team. It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian's a professional," Frazier said. "We're going to see how Christian does on Wednesday. But between he and Matt [Cassel], they'll be the guys that are starting the game. We're not going to try and get Josh up and going for this ballgame."
Freeman, 25, is the same age as Ponder, but has 30 more career starts under his belt since taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009. Ponder is currently battling a rib injury he suffered in the Sept. 22 loss against the Cleveland Browns, but apparently he's still in the running to start on Sunday despite his tumultuous performances in the first three games.
Frazier said Ponder is still technically the starter, but he didn't endorse a front runner to start once Freeman's in the mix. With his reported near-$3 million contract, Freeman will likely get the chance to start once he's integrated into the system.
Ponder was a limited participant in Monday's practice, but seemed to move around well in the portion open to media.
"I'm just focused on what I can do. We'll see how it plays out and I'm a man of faith so I believe that God's got my future in his hands," Ponder said. "I don't know what that means. I'm trying to get healthy. I think ultimately [the Freeman signing] is going to make me a better quarterback."
General manager Rick Spielman and Frazier have clearly endorsed Ponder since the team selected him 12th overall in 2011. But Ponder's routine inconsistencies have surely tested the patience of many in the organization after a 12-17 record with 33 touchdowns and 39 turnovers (30 interceptions, nine fumbles lost).
The light created by Ponder's career game against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 30 faded quickly as he struggled in limited preseason action and went 0-3 to open the season before he was sidelined with the injury.
Ponder said he still believes Frazier's vote of confidence, despite the coach's feeling of needing more than him at quarterback.
"Leslie is a man of faith, so I'm going to take him for his word," Ponder said. "I believe what him and Rick say."
Stuck in the middle is Cassel, a nine-year veteran who made his first start for the third team in his career on Sept. 29. Cassel escaped without any turnovers in the 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London, but Frazier, at least publicly, staunchly considers him the backup.
"It's not anything that's overwhelming or surprising, it's one of those things that's the NFL," Cassel said. "I haven't been told anything. I don't expect anything. I'll just continue to work hard and be ready to play just like I was last week when I found out on Friday."
The Vikings still have to make a roster move to make room for Freeman and are reportedly looking to move fourth-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson soon.