Matt Cassel enters training camp as No. 1 QB in Mike Zimmer's mind
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MANKATO, Minn. - The quarterback battle will come into focus as training camp progresses. At the onset, however, Matt Cassel will be the top quarterback, head coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday as the Vikings reported for training camp.
That doesn't necessarily mean he'll be the starter once the season begins, Zimmer added, which sets the stage for an intriguing battle between the incumbent and the rookie hotshot, Teddy Bridgewater.
"In my mind I have Cassel as the No. 1 quarterback going into camp. I don't have a starter in mind yet," Zimmer said. "[The players] are going to determine who the starter is on the practice field about how they go about their business, how they perform in the preseason games. I understand the quarterback's a big situation."
That is a stronger declaration than previous comments by the coaching staff, which had suggested the job is anybody's to win. Many observers thought Cassel would open the season as the starter, but some gave Bridgewater an outside shot to win the job with a strong camp, much like Russell Wilson with the Seahawks in 2012. If that's the way it comes together for Minnesota, Zimmer won't hesitate to play Bridgewater, he said. Or Cassel. Or Christian Ponder, apparently.
"I have no problem playing a rookie quarterback, or a ninth-year veteran or a fourth-year veteran. We're going to do what we think is best collectively as a group. I'm lucky as heck to have Norv Turner here to help with this decision. I was lucky to have him in the draft process to help there and, honestly, our scouts."
But Zimmer said the snap counts in camp won't be exactly even.
"It's not exactly even -- one-third, one-third, one-third. It's a little bit more and then some drills it's going to be a little bit less. You'll figure it out by watching practice. Like I said from Day 1 I want everyone to compete for positions. I believe the better you compete the better you get. People don't get complacent. They study harder. They work harder on the practice field. So I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to play.
"The reps can't all be the same but they will be similar at the beginning, and we'll start backing them down some," Zimmer said.
The performance during training camp isn't the only thing that will be considered in the decision. The defense, Zimmer said, also will play a role in determining the starting quarterback.
"Part of the question about answering who the quarterback's going to be is: what kind of defense do we have? What are we going to ask the quarterback to do? How can we use the quarterback in different ways? I think a lot of that has a factor on who the quarterback will end up being."