Teddy Bridgewater is the new guy — the first-round draft pick and the Vikings QB of the future. Christian Ponder is the remnant — the former first-round pick still on the roster. But Matt Cassel? He is likely the Week 1 starter for this year’s Vikings, meaning he has the potential to influence the success or failure of coach Mike Zimmer’s first season as much as any other single player. Cassel recently chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand about the new staff and other matters.
Q Are you guys getting tired yet of all the questions about how different this year is from last year?
A I know it’s just part of the process. I think everyone was interested in the new system and everything like that. It’s been fresh on our minds, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve been hard at work for two months. It’s been fun getting out here competing. [Thursday] you saw us in a [two-minute drill], and that’s about as live a football drill as you can possibly get. You’re just playing out there.
Q Glad you aren’t tired of it because I do want to ask what you have seen — after being here for one year of Leslie Frazier and now Mike Zimmer?
A I’ve been in the league long enough to understand every coach is different and has a different approach. Coach Zimmer, he’s very businesslike, very matter-of-fact, and he’s going to be very truthful with guys. I think everybody appreciates his honesty because you know where you stand. You know what you need to work on. It’s the same thing with Coach [Norv] Turner on the offensive side. He’s going to coach you hard, but I think those are the things that are going to elevate our players, elevate my game, because there are no small details overlooked.
Q Everybody knows about Turner’s offensive pedigree, but Zimmer said he didn’t know Turner was so vocal on the field. Did that take you by surprise, too?
A [smiles] I don’t think anyone knew his style coming in. Like Coach Zimmer, I didn’t know he’d be as vocal as he is. But I’m pleasantly surprised, because like I said I think he creates a sense of urgency in practice that we need. That’s the way you get better. If you don’t have a sense of urgency in practice, then it’s hard to carry that over on game day. And he coaches everybody. It’s not just certain guys. It’s the first person up, the second person up, the third person up. He’s talking about all the little details, and that’s huge.
Q It’s June. It’s early. But based on what has been installed so far and the pieces you have, how good can the offense be?
A We have the talent here. And we have the potential to be a very good offense. The scheme is going to be in place. It’s up to us to learn it, to start build a rapport with receivers and what we’re trying to accomplish with every play.
Q What did you think of that story this week about your teammate Chad Greenway rescuing boaters on Lake Minnetonka? Did you see that?
A Oh yeah, I was singing him that song — [in singing voice] “When a hero comes along” — and all that stuff. I don’t even know who sings it, but I was singing it to him. They showed a little clip in the team meeting room, and so I asked him where his cape was. It was pretty funny.