KANSAS CITY, MO. – The all-important third preseason game has come and gone, with Matt Cassel making another start under center. But is Vikings coach Mike Zimmer prepared to coronate his starting quarterback for the season opener?
“No,” Zimmer succinctly said.
Cassel completed his first two passes for 84 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive of the team’s 30-12 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night. But he cooled off from there, throwing his first interception of the preseason and finishing the game 9-for-17 for 152 yards. He played into the third quarter.
“I thought Matt played well,” Zimmer said.
Rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who benefited from excellent starting field position on his first two drives, threw touchdown passes on two of his first three attempts to help the Vikings pull away from the Chiefs and improve to 3-0 this preseason. Overall, Bridgewater completed four of his seven attempts for 40 yards with no turnovers.
Bridgewater has been efficient in the last two preseason games, but Cassel has been better overall since the start of training camp, even with his so-so performance Saturday night.
It seems as if it’s only a matter of time until Zimmer officially chooses Cassel, but the veteran continues to sidestep questions about whether he feels he has locked up the starting gig.
“I don’t know. They’ll have to make that decision,” Cassel said. “Hopefully the decision gets made sooner than later but I’m going to go out and keep competing and hopefully it all works out for the best.”
Loadholt’s leg trouble
Starting right tackle Phil Loadholt went to the locker room during the first quarter to get an X-ray for his injured lower leg. He returned after sitting out one series, but Zimmer said the team plans to take another look at Loadholt with a magnetic resonance imaging exam scheduled for Sunday.
“They don’t believe it’s anything real serious,” Zimmer said.
Rookie free agent Austin Wentworth replaced Loadholt for that one series and was beaten for a sack, which led to a fumble by Cassel that bounced out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Robinson toughs it out
Josh Robinson, who missed the first two preseason games and valuable practice time because of a hamstring injury, made his preseason debut Saturday, lining up as the third cornerback in the nickel package.
Zimmer has twice tried to nudge Robinson back onto the field with subtle comments to the media, including saying, “You can’t make the club in the tub.” But he said after that the game that he was pleased that Robinson pushed through pain to play Saturday.
“I actually planned on letting him warm up then sitting him,” Zimmer said. “Then I went up and asked him how he felt and he said he feels good. So I just wanted to get him about 10 plays to try to get him a little bit of game tempo in a game situation and have a little confidence on his hamstring. So I was glad to see that he sucked it up and went out there and played.”
Jamarca Sanford, the former starting safety who is fighting for a roster spot, left in the first quarter after suffering an undisclosed injury on a special teams play and did not return. Sanford said after the game that he felt “good” but expressed frustration that the injury denied him an opportunity to make an impression with the new Vikings coaching staff.
“I’m upset, frustrated,” Sanford said. “Not being able to go because you get hurt. It’s part of the game.”
Peterson rejoins team
Running back Adrian Peterson, who missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices to deal with a personal matter, joined the team for its trip to Kansas City. He suited up and took part in pregame warmups, but he did not play because of previous plans to hold him out of preseason action.
Rookie cornerback Jabari Price and linebackers Gerald Hodges and Brandon Watts also sat out against the Chiefs. They have been sidelined since the 30-28 victory over Arizona on Aug. 16.