Cassel, Bridgewater, Ponder to battle

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' quarterback competition is apparently a wide-open race between three passers.

That's at least what coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday as the team began its mandatory minicamp. Zimmer said he and offensive coordinator Norv Turner were working on a plan to get all three quarterbacks -- Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder -- enough snaps to make sure each one has a "legitimate opportunity" to win the starting job in training camp, adding that he wouldn't rush into a decision before he was sure everyone in the organization was comfortable with it.

Zimmer dispelled the notion that Cassel, who signed a new two-year deal in March after opting out of his original contract in February, would enter camp as the presumptive starter.

"I've never said that," Zimmer said. "I know I've heard other people say it, but I've never said it. From the day I walked in here, I said I want tough, intelligent, smart football players and I want competition at every position. To me, we're still competing; everybody's still competing for jobs. I'm competing to be a good head coach; assistants are competing to be good assistant head coaches. Again, I don't want to rush into anything."

Cassel and Bridgewater -- whom the Vikings took with the 32nd pick in the draft last month -- got more snaps than Ponder during the Vikings' organized team activities that were open to the media, and both quarterbacks looked sharper than Ponder, who lost the starting job to Cassel at the end of last season and is fighting for playing time before he becomes a free agent in March. But the quarterback position will apparently be an open question long enough that any of the three can win or lose the job.

Zimmer said he will want to make a decision sometime before the season so the Vikings can get their starter ready with the first-team offense. But, he said, "We've got 20 some practices before the first game, 20 walk-throughs or something. We've got time.

"Everybody wants to rush into things, but it's more important to me to make the right decision, and when you do, then we'll go with it and hope it's the right call."

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