Matt Cassel knows his role with Vikings: 'Christian's the starting QB'
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
The Minnesota Vikings were clear about the role they expect to be filled by Matt Cassel, who said in a conference call on Friday he has no illusions about an open competition for the starting quarterback job with Christian Ponder.
"They conveyed exactly that," Cassel said, shortly after signing the deal he agreed to on Thursday, "that Christian obviously had a great year last year, they went 10-6 and that he's their starting quarterback and that they're looking to bring somebody in with experience and somebody that will come in and basically be somebody who can step in if need be.
"The fact of the matter is, again, Christian's the starting quarterback and I think that we'll have a great room. I'm there to add value. I'm there to help him out in whatever capacity that is and go from there."
The two met last year, when Ponder was working out in Los Angeles, and reconnected shortly after Cassel agreed to terms with the Vikings.
"We were able to call each other and talk and just talk a little bit about my excitement joining the team and being part of the group and also that we're going to have a lot of fun this year," Cassel said.
Cassel, 30, has started parts of the past four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. But he is more than familiar with the backup role.
He threw only 33 passes in four years at the University of Southern California, where he backed up Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. The New England Patriots took a flier on him in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft and Cassel didn't get any significant time until his fourth season, when Tom Brady's knee injury in the season opener thrust Cassel into the starting role.
"I think I understand the role completely, without a doubt," Cassel said. "But at the same time ... both being a starter and a backup, your preparation, what you do on a day-to-day basis doesn't change other than the reps that you get in practice.
"So, you have to be ready to go at a moment's notice and you also have to take great pride in getting yourself ready more with mental preparation, spend some extra time in that meeting room than you would, because you're not going to get all those reps."
The Chiefs acquired Cassel before the 2009 season. His best season came in 2010, when he threw for 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. But he started only 17 games in two seasons since and was bound to be released once Kansas City traded for Alex Smith.
The cut came on Thursday morning, and within hours, Cassel had agreed to terms with the Vikings. He visited the team's Winter Park headquarters on Friday to meet with coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, among others.
"It felt like it was perfect fit for me, the community, my family," Cassel said, "but also being part of a team last year that went 10-6. It's a team that's young, that's up and coming and a winner to be quite frank. I'm just really excited to be a part of a team and that's really what made it so attractive to me."
Cassel will wear No. 16 with the Vikings.
"I'll always work hard," Cassel said. "You're always going to get 110 percent, whether I'm on the field or whether I'm backing up. Right now in this role as a backup ... you have to take another step in your mental edge of continuing to prepare."