Whether this is the beginning of the end of the Christian Ponder era in Minnesota remains to be seen, but the Vikings' 2011 first-round pick won't play against the Steelers in London on Sunday. He suffered a rib injury in last week's loss to the Browns, and on Friday, the Vikings announced that backup Matt Cassel would get the start.
"I've been through it a lot, but at the same time you get those butterflies and everything," Cassel said Friday. "I just found out this morning before practice. At the same time I've been preparing for this and I feel like I'm ready to go. I had a good week of practice and now it's about going out there and executing on Sunday."
Given how poorly Ponder played through the first three weeks, the bar has been set pretty low. If Cassel can give the ball to Adrian Peterson without fumbling, and complete the high-percentage throws Ponder has struggled with, he could make a case to keep the job beyond Sunday, especially if the 0-3 Vikings can outlast the just-as-hapless 0-3 Steelers.
"I'm not really looking ahead, to be completely honest. Like I said, I just found out this morning. For me, it's really about going out there and being accountable to my teammates and hopefully getting out of here with a win this weekend," Cassel said. "I've got to take care of the ball, we've got to take care of the ball, and we've got to execute. And whoever does that and plays good situational football will win this game on Sunday."
The real story isn't that Ponder won't play but that Cassel's old teammate, Tom Brady, spilled the beans earlier this week that Cassel would get the nod over Ponder. In response to a question about former Patriots backup Brian Hoyer, who led the Browns to a win last week, Brady offered this:
"We have a great relationship and a very close relationship," he said of Hoyer. "The backup quarterback, there's only been two of us, Brian and I at one time and now myself and Ryan Mallett. We have a great rapport. I'm friends with all those guys. Matt Cassel, I talk to -- he may be starting this weekend."
Say it and it is so.
Just one more thing to add to the resume: Three-time Super Bowl winner, future Hall of Famer, Gisele Bundchen's husband, and now, oracle.