Matt Cassel will start Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings, replacing injured Christian Ponder at quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers when they meet at Wembley Stadium in London.
Christian Ponder attempted to practice with a painful rib injury for the third straight game, but coach Leslie Frazier is giving Cassel the start for the winless Vikings.
"I hope he plays well. This teams needs him to play well and I think he will play well," Ponder said Friday.
The embattled quarterback, booed mightily in his home stadium in Minneapolis last week, split repetitions with Cassel Wednesday and Thursday and veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings noticed one major difference.
"He's more verbal, kind of commanding in the huddle," Jennings said of Cassel. "That's the difference. That comes with him having more experience."
Cassel understands the urgency for Minnesota, which is in danger of falling a full four games behind NFC North-leading Chicago with another loss and a Bears victory at Detroit.
"It's really a one-game season. We've got to play good football," he said. "I've got to take care of the ball. I'm excited about the opportunity."
Jennings did pay Ponder showed no noticeable affects from the rib injury he suffered Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns.
Frazier said the notion that the Vikings are pulling for Cassel to unseat Ponder was ludicrous.
"We want Christian to play," Frazier said.
Ponder, Minnesota's first-round pick in 2011, and Cassel, an undrafted free agent who owned 62 career starts in eight seasons with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs before signing as a backup with the Vikings, will find out who gets the start Friday. Frazier said he'll base the decision on Ponder's two practices this week, including Friday.
Cassel was released by Kansas City after the Chiefs went 2-14 last season. He has 30 turnovers in his last 18 games.