Vikings plan to start Ponder against PackersPublished 9:13am Thursday, November 21, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE — Stop the music. The quarterback carousel in Minnesota is staying put for another week. Christian Ponder will be the starter at Green Bay.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier announced his decision on Wednesday, and Ponder made this sound like it wasn’t much of a decision at all. Frazier didn’t seek him out to tell him he was keeping the job, Ponder said. He just assumed the spot was still his.
“Unless I was told otherwise,” Ponder said.
Which he wasn’t.
“I appreciate coach Frazier having the confidence in me to be able to go out this week and play,” Ponder said.
Ponder’s status was in question because of three more turnovers last weekend in a 41-20 loss at Seattle. His lost fumble and two interceptions led to 17 points for the Seahawks, and he was pulled for Matt Cassel him early in the fourth quarter after he was picked off the second time. Frazier was blunt in his criticism of Ponder afterward.
But the coach said he believes Ponder, and not Cassel or Josh Freeman, again gives the Vikings their best chance to beat the Packers on Sunday. Frazier said he factored in Ponder’s previous performances against Green Bay, experience playing in the cold at Lambeau Field and his grasp of the offense. But he also acknowledged the questions sticking with Ponder have prompted from fans, the media and even within the locker room.
As for the players?
“They’ll get on board. It helps if we can have success as a team,” Frazier said.
In seven starts, Ponder has thrown nine interceptions and lost four fumbles. He has only six touchdown passes, though he has rushed for four scores. The inability to consistently complete important passes to intermediate and deep receivers has been a persistent issue.
The Vikings have turned this season into an open tryout at the position, but they’re so far past the developmental stage with Ponder that there’s almost no amount of highlight-reel throws he can make down the stretch that could dissuade them from drafting a quarterback next spring.
“Honestly, I’m not focused on it,” Ponder said. “There’s enough pressure going on in this position. And if you start worrying about those things, it’s only to make it worse. And again, my future in my eyes doesn’t go past Sunday.”
Frazier wouldn’t speculate on the depth chart past this week, either, but he left open the possibility that Freeman will start again. His debut was dismal, 53 attempts for 190 yards, but the Vikings make take another look. Cassel is likely the backup again, for this game at least.
“When it comes to Josh or Matt for future ballgames, you deal with it probably on Monday when we come back after this Green Bay game,” Frazier said.
Frazier said Freeman has “been a professional in everything we’ve asked him to do.” Freeman backed up that assessment after practice by avoiding even a whiff of discontent in discussing his situation with reporters.
“It’s not our job to say anything about that other than, ‘Here we go, Christian!”’ Freeman said.
He said he has no regret about signing here, despite being on the inactive list for four of the six games he’s been on the roster.
“No distractions. No anything. You just get to sit and focus. I get my beats bumping in the QB room, just sitting there and just jamming and watch tape and take notes. It’s great. It’s great,” Freeman said.
NOTES: WR Greg Childs took part in his first practice in more than 15 months, since he tore the patellar tendon in both knees the first week of training camp as a rookie. He’s on the physically unable to perform list, and the Vikings have three weeks to decide whether or not to put him on the active roster the rest of the season. “I’m going to eventually get on the playing field. I don’t know when. It could be by the end of the season, or it could be the beginning of the next. But it’s going to be one of the two,” Childs said. … C John Sullivan has not yet passed his post-concussion test and did not practice on Wednesday. … RB Adrian Peterson (groin) was held out, as was WR Greg Jennings (Achilles). Frazier said Jennings was still sore in the morning. The coach said he’s “cautiously optimistic” Peterson will play.