The Christian Ponder era may be over, barring how well backup quarterback Matt Cassel performs when he makes his first start for the Minnesota Vikings against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in London.
The Minnesota Vikings verified Twitter account announced the news early Friday morning.
Ponder has started 29 games since being drafted 12th overall in 2011, but apparently suffered a rib injury that took until Wednesday to announce, when the team was already in London. Ponder is on the hook for seven of the team's 10 turnovers, one of many problems that has led to an 0-3 start. Vikings receivers have gone without a touchdown through the first three games and the team's two passing touchdowns are tied for second-fewest in the NFL behind the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Vikings signed Cassel this offseason after he led the Kansas City Chiefs for four seasons. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley coached Cassel for three seasons as the Chiefs' head coach before joining Pittsburgh as an assistant in 2012.
Cassel easily became one of the highest paid backups when the Vikings signed him to a two-year, $7.4 million deal in March. Both the team and Cassel can opt out of the second year if they choose to after this season, essentially making it a one-year, $3.7 million deal.
Cassel is most known for successfully leading the New England Patriots after starter Tom Brady went down in Week 1 in 2008. Cassel threw for nearly 3,700 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on his way to an 11-5 record. He became a Pro Bowl quarterback after his 2010 season with the Chiefs, which resulted in 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions and the team's first playoff berth since 2006. However, he fizzled quickly, losing nine of his last 10 starts and ultimately replaced by Brady Quinn in his last game on Nov. 18, 2012.
Ponder reportedly suffered a rib injury in Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns. He and coach Leslie Frazier both reportedly said the rib in question was too close to his heart to risk playing.
Ponder had a CT scan on Monday; initial concern was that he had a bruised lung and couldn't fly to London. Expects to be ready for Panthers.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) September 27, 2013
Cassel's performance will likely dictate if Ponder's job is waiting for him after the bye week.