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Updated: December 23rd, 2013 2:10pm
Notebook: Quarterback status quo; injury updates on ailing secondary

Notebook: Quarterback status quo; injury updates on ailing secondary

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Matt Cassel, despite his poor performance Sunday, will finish the season as the Vikings' starting quarterback.

Christian Ponder, despite his inability to hold the starting job, will back up Sunday, according to head coach Leslie Frazier.

Josh Freeman, despite being signed midseason and getting a one-game audition, once again appears to be the forgotten man.

"I have to give it some more thought. Matt's going to be our starter for this ballgame. Right now Christian is in that backup role," Frazier said. "I don't know what would change that as the week goes on, but that's the thought process as we speak."

If Frazier was concerned about Cassel's poor performance against the Bengals, it didn't show Monday.

"The team that we were playing, they play some pretty good defense," Frazier said Monday of Cassel's struggles against the Bengals. "We probably could have protected a little bit better. There were some things we could have done a little bit better as an offense as a whole that maybe could have helped Matt some, but he still has to do a good job protecting the ball.

"From that first fumble, sack-fumble, and just find a way to get that ball tucked away. If we take the sack, we take the sack. But protecting the ball is a big deal. He'll be better this next week, but I don't if there was anything schematically that was a whole lot different. We were doing some of the similar things we've done in the past. We didn't have the type of success."

Frazier said Freeman is third on the depth chart not because he hasn't yet picked up the offense, but rather that the team would prefer to see Cassel play again.

"No, he did a good job picking up things. It's one of the reasons we played him in that New York game," Frazier said of Freeman. "He picked up things well and worked hard in practice. He's still doing those things, picking up the offense, working hard, spending time with coaches doing all the things he needs to do. But with one game left and having a chance to watch Matt play again, we made the decision and that's probably the way we'll go."

Chris Cooked?

Cornerback Chris Cook was seemingly picked on Sunday by the Bengals' passing attack. He was often targeted and struggled in one-on-one coverage with elite receiver A.J. Green.

Shaun Prater started the game at corner, but had to leave with an ankle injury. Cook then played, despite being "a little banged up" himself.

"It was dependent on what they were doing personnel-wise. We wanted to see how Chris worked out during the week of practice and he did some things fairly well, but we made the decision to with Shaun and then of course Shaun gets injured and we had to get Chris out there and he was a little bit banged up. But the injury to Shaun precipitated that we get Chris on the field." 

Frazier said it was apparent the Bengals targeted Cook at times.

"It seemed that way," Frazier said. Him coming off an injury, we would probably do the same thing. Tough, tough day for him."

Smith sore

Safety Harrison Smith is still sore since returning a week ago from a turf toe injury.

"He was a little sore yesterday. Played through it, but he was sore for a period of time," Frazier said Monday. "[Smith] worked well in practice and he'll be a little sore this week, but he'll be ready to go for the game. But he's still a little sore."

Rhodes return possible?

It's too early in the week to tell if rookie corner Xavier Rhodes will be able to go Sunday, Frazier said.

Rhodes (ankle) has been out since Dec. 8, but the Vikings are hoping he can return for the team's final game.

"We're hoping. We definitely need him, so we'll see if he's able to practice tomorrow or when we come back after practice. But we're hoping so," Frazier said.

Cole out

Frazier confirmed that Audie Cole (high ankle sprain) will miss the final game of the season. Erin Henderson moved from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker when Cole left Sunday's game.

"I thought he did a good job when he stepped in in the absence of Audie," Frazier said. "Came in, made some nice tackles for us, did a pretty good job of directing defense. I thought he did a pretty good job of moving over from the outside linebacker spot to the middle linebacker spot."

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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