Although there are no assurances of where he will be on the depth chart, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel sounds a lot more comfortable after his talk with new head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Star Tribune reports.
Both Cassel and defensive end Everson Griffin spoke with the media for the first time Tuesday following their respective returns to the team. Cassel, who opted out of the final year of his original deal with the Vikings last month, signed a new, two-year $10 million deal with the team Friday; while Griffen inked a five-year, $42.5 million contract with Vikings Sunday.
In a conference call Tuesday, Cassel admitted that he didn't know where he stood week to week with the team last year, but since he was always ready to play and the team finished strong, it gave him another opportunity to come back.
Of his new coaches, Cassel said he was impressed playing against Zimmer as a defensive coordinator, and feels there's a "trust factor" already with Turner.
"I think there was a multitude of reasons for coming back to the Minnesota Vikings. I'm a big fan of Coach Zimmer. I think he does a phenomenal job with his defense. I played against him a few times and it's always difficult to prepare for somebody like that," Cassel told the media. "And also at the same time, I think the hiring of Coach Turner and my familiarity with the personnel and the potential that we have to be explosive on the offensive side of the ball, I was excited about all those factors."
Currently Cassel is slated to come to the Vikings training camp as a starter, the Star Tribune says, but the picture could change come draft time.
Vikings blog writer Mike Wobschall says it's impossible to tell what the re-signing of Cassel means to the team's draft plans. However, he says, the presence of the veteran quarterback will mean less pressure on the team to put whatever rookie they draft on the field right away.
Still Wobschall says, don't be surprised if Vikings take a quarterback in their designated No. 8 slot, so long as there's a candidate worthy of such a high selection.
"That quarterback could beat Cassel for the job, and if he doesn’t win the job he will learn for a year or so under a wise veteran who knows how to prepare as an NFL passer," Wobschall writes.
Griffen, meanwhile, is expected to take over the slot left open by the departing Jared Allen – and is not taking the responsibility of the venerable defensive end star lightly, the Star Tribune reports.
"I'm going right back to work," Griffen told reporters in a conference call. "With more responsibility, that means you got to work harder, you got to be disciplined and the biggest thing is you got to listen. This whole game is built on listening. The coach is here to coach you and you are here to listen. It should be no ifs, ands or buts about it. They're going to tell you want to do and you're going to do it. I'm ready to listen and take this next step and become a leader."
Griffen says he was "excited and over-thankful" about the return, saying, "thank you, thank you, thank you." He also paid respect to Allen in the call, amid reports that the former Vikings sack leader is possibly considering Denver as his next team.
"Jared Allen is in my era of playing defensive end, he is the best player I've seen at defensive end. He was smart, he had wisdom, he listened and he worked," Griffen said. "This type of stuff doesn't happen by you just being a guy. You have to work at it like Jared did. Jared taught me everything I know about football today."
With any luck, Griffen will re-team with free agent and former teammate Kevin Williams, who tells the Pioneer Press that he wouldn't rule out staying in Minnesota.