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Lunch Break, September 4: Cassel Not Looking Over His Shoulder

10th-year quarterback Matt Cassel has been through just about any situation you can imagine in his decade as a signal caller in the NFL. Those experiences, along with his leadership and stellar play, have led him into the position of Week 1 starter for the Vikings, a role he doesn't look to relinquish anytime soon.

Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune writes that Cassel, despite having a 2014 first round pick as his back up, will not be looking over his shoulder:

The veteran quarterback played with poise throughout training camp and the preseason, commanding the huddle and minimizing mistakes while convincing the Vikings that the future can wait. And now that he has secured the starting gig heading into Sunday's season opener in St. Louis, Cassel isn't looking back.

Besides, Cassel probably will be too preoccupied with the formidable Rams pass rush to worry about whether Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is instructing the rookie to buckle up his chinstrap over on the sideline.

"I think I've had a tremendous offseason. I've worked as hard as I've ever worked. And I'm not going to look over my shoulder," Cassel said. "You can't play that way. You can't worry that if I make a mistake, what's going to happen next? You've got to go out and play the game to the best of your ability."

Like most coaches, Zimmer has pounded the pulpit while declaring that every starting position is up for grabs, though it remains to be seen if he will be one of the ones who actually walks the walk. But Zimmer did acknowledge Wednesday that while making changes at other positions may have a ripple effect on his team, the impact of swapping quarterbacks would be something closer to a tsunami.

"I don't want to have a quick hook, but I do want to do what's the right thing for the football team," Zimmer said. "At that point in time, [offensive coordinator] Norv [Turner] and I will sit down and discuss it -- if it gets to that point."

Zimmer made it clear, though, that he doesn't expect it to get to that point any time soon.

The Vikings and Cassel will have their work cut out for them this Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome but it's nothing the veteran quarterback hasn't seen before.

Adrian Peterson swears the last trip to St. Louis is the only time his career that he's gotten caught up in trash talking. Firing up the MVP was a bad idea for the Rams. Peterson went off for 212 yards as the Vikings took down the Rams for the second of four wins in December of 2012 en route to a playoff berth.

ESPN's Ben Goessling recalls Adrian's big day against the Rams in 2012 and touches a bit on Sunday's matchup:

*The Minnesota Vikings' previous trip to St. Louis came in Week 15 of the 2012 season, in a game the Vikings had to win to keep themselves in the playoff race. Peterson was in the middle of a transcendent stretch, having logged at least 100 yards in his previous seven games and gaining 210 two weeks before in Green Bay. The Rams game, though, turned out to be Peterson's best of the season; he ran for 212 yards on 24 carries, with 82 of them coming on a touchdown run that helped him get the last word over a defense Peterson said had him in a foul mood that day. *

*"What I do remember about that game is that it's first time in eight years, I've ever talked off to players," Peterson said in a conference call with St. Louis reporters on Wednesday. "Those guys had me so hot; like, I haven't ever been that mad playing football. Those guys were just running to the ball -- I love it, too -- but (they) were just yapping at the mouth. I'm talking about from the defensive front to the second level to the secondary. Those guys were just yapping and they were doing pretty good initially, kind of getting a couple tackles for loss, a couple of three-and-outs. And then when I gunned at them one time, it got real quiet. I'm not going to give you my hint. I hope they come in talking a lot of noise this time, too. I'm excited to play these guys." *



Sunday's game should be a good opening test for Peterson against an aggressive Rams defense that was ninth in the league against the run last season while posting 53 sacks. The Rams took down opposing quarterbacks on 10.2 percent of their dropbacks, which was tied for the second-highest rate in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and pressure from the St. Louis front four could make Peterson a safety valve for Matt Cassel, through his new role in the passing game and delayed handoffs designed to take advantage of aggressive fronts.

Let's hope the Rams make the same mistake and try to bring some 'noise' to AD this Sunday.

Quick Hitters

  • Here's a look at the Vikings Wednesday injury report.

  •'s Senior Editor Gregg Rosenthal picks the Vikings as his dark horse team.
  • Patrick Reusse: Brandon Fusco shed blocks to become rock on Vikings offensive line.
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