Hartman: Cassel skipped free agency to rejoin Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2014 - 1:00 AM

The Vikings QB wanted to come back and is especially excited to work with new coordinator Norv Turner.

The rumors about quarterback Matt Cassel testing the free-agent market before re-signing with the Vikings were totally false.

Cassel never did. He was content to stay with the Vikings and wanted to come back in the worst way.

“The fact of the matter was the Vikings had come to me with a deal a few days prior to free agency, but I thought, after talking it over with my wife and my family, that we really enjoyed our time there in Minnesota,” said Cassel, who signed a two-year contract calling for $5 million per year.

“We loved the team and my familiarity with it, and I think the direction that [General Manager] Rick Spielman and the Wilf family have gone with hiring Coach [Mike] Zimmer and now with Coach [Norv] Turner on the offensive side of the ball, I was really excited to be back. I think that we have a lot of potential to do great things this year.”

Cassel said he hasn’t played under Turner but does have some familiarity with him.

“I played against him when I was in Kansas City a lot, and the one thing that I know is that every time we played against him, you had to be ready to score a lot of points, because their teams would always put up a lot of points,” Cassel said. “I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Coach Turner just because he does such a tremendous job of creating mismatches, taking what they give you, and bringing out the best in his players.”

Cassel said that after watching Turner with other teams for so long, he’s excited to work for him.

“There’s no doubt,” Cassel said. “I’m excited to get to work with him. We start April 7th and get going, and that’s one of those things where it will be fun to get started and see where we can go.”

Cassel posted an 81.6 quarterback rating last year, throwing for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions in nine games (six starts). He said he believes he can do better this season.

“I mean, you’ve got Greg Jennings back, Cordarrelle Patterson, we just re-signed Jerome Simpson, we’ve got Jarius Wright, all these guys are tremendously talented receivers,” he said. “Then you take into account our tight end position with Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, even Chase [Ford] came in there last year in the last game and made some big plays, then right behind you, you put [running back] Adrian Peterson. That’s a good combination.

“For any quarterback to come into this type of situation, you get excited about it and from there it’s about continuing to work with those guys.”

Building on first year

While the Vikings will be under a completely new coaching staff, Cassel believes there will be a big benefit in having continuity at quarterback with him playing his second season in Minnesota, just because of his familiarity with the players.

“I’m just excited because last year, any time you come into a new environment, the first thing you want to do is get familiar with your guys and build some relationships and show them you’re going to be accountable,” said Cassel, who will have to battle for Christian Ponder and, possibly, a young quarterback the team takes in the NFL draft, for the starting spot.

“From that standpoint, I don’t think I’ll be coming in brand-new again. I have great relationships with players on both sides of the ball. They understand my work ethic and what I want to try to get accomplished, so hopefully that will be an easier transition than it was last year.”

Rubio, Wolves surging

The Timberwolves are five games back in the loss column behind Dallas for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs (Phoenix is between the two teams, 1½ games behind the Mavericks) with only 15 games to go following Thursday’s 129-106 loss at Houston, but their 123-122 overtime victory over the Mavs on Wednesday certainly kept them in the picture.

Since Feb. 10, when the Wolves dropped to 24-28, the team have won 10 of 15 games to move back into contention. That record is the fourth best in the NBA over that stretch.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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