By DAVE CAMPBELL, Associated Press
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings know who'll be giving the handoffs this week, even if they're not sure yet who'll be taking them.
Running back Adrian Peterson has shed the walking boot on his sprained right foot, but he wasn't ready for practice Wednesday. He probably won't participate until Friday at the earliest, and coach Leslie Frazier said he's more optimistic about the condition of backup Toby Gerhart than he is with Peterson. Gerhart's hamstring injury will also likely keep him from practicing until Friday.
Matt Cassel will start at quarterback again, though. That's settled for the week. Christian Ponder, cleared to play following his concussion, will be the backup. Cassel had 265 yards and two touchdowns passing in a turnover-free game at Baltimore, so he'll get another chance against Philadelphia.
"He did a good job on the ballgame on Sunday. He's done a good job when he stepped in a backup role and had to finish games. I just decided to give this him opportunity to see if he can continue to build on some of the play that he had."
Josh Freeman, once the starting quarterback for Tampa Bay, signed for $2 million two months ago and still only 25, is stuck as the third-stringer. With three games left and the Vikings (3-9-1) eliminated from playoffs contention, Frazier was asked if the Vikings are wasting the chance for further evaluation of Freeman. He played once, an abysmal performance on Oct. 21 at New York.
"That's a good question. But we made the decision that we're going to give Matt this opportunity," Frazier said. "Hopefully, things will work out. But Josh, he's working hard. He's doing everything he needs to do."
The Vikings aren't any closer to figuring out who their quarterback will be in 2014 and beyond, but they've been competitive in all but a handful of games, losing four and tying one in five contests they've held late fourth-quarter leads in. Cassel has played well enough to suggest he can help maintain some momentum.
"This year has been ups and downs and all kinds of crazy stuff going on. But at the same time, if you keep a level head and continue to work hard and not let that frustrate you - because I think frustration is a self-inflicted wound a lot of times - you can continue to get better each and every week and be ready to play when your number is called," Cassel said.
Matt Asiata could be that guy this week, if Peterson and Gerhart don't make enough progress. Frazier was asked again if simply shutting the franchise player down for the rest of the season was the wisest move the team could make.
"If it seems to be a problem, for sure we'll err on the side of caution with him," Frazier said, adding: "In talking to our trainers and doctors, they haven't talked to me about further injury. It's more about pain tolerance, and can he do some of the things he needs to do to be able to protect himself?"
Safety Harrison Smith is on track to play this week, though he's not eligible to be reinstated to the active roster until Friday. Frazier said Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo will continue to start, and Smith will be eased in. He suffered a turf toe injury on Oct. 13 against Carolina.
"All the other stuff that comes with playing in the NFL is nice, obviously, but getting to play on Sundays is what it's all about. So when you can't do that, you just feel kind of lost, I guess," Smith said. "It's obviously going to take a long time for it to get back to where it was, but it's structurally sound. I can move around, I can do what I want to do, so it feels good."
NOTES: RG Brandon Fusco (knee), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and TE John Carlson (concussion) were all held out of practice. It's still too early in the week to tell if they'll be able to play on Sunday. ... The Vikings signed RB Bradley Randle, who was with the team in training camp, to the practice squad for more depth.
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