Ponder will start for Vikings against Packers
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Christian Ponder will start at quarterback for Minnesota against Green Bay on Sunday night, while Josh Freeman will be inactive after being cleared to practice.
Next week’s as-the-quarterback-carousel-turns episode has not been written yet, but the Vikings have their guy for the Packers game. Coach Leslie Frazier confirmed after practice on Friday that Ponder will start against the Vikings’ bitter rival.
Freeman reported concussion-like symptoms the day after his rough performance Monday night in a loss to the New York Giants.
He passed the NFL’s required tests and went through part of the workout with the Vikings on Friday, but this was too late in the week for him to catch up with the game plan and get ready to play. Frazier said Freeman will be inactive on Sunday night, with Matt Cassel backing up Ponder.
Frazier said the Vikings expect Freeman to fully participate in practice next week, which will create another mini-drama about who will take the next turn through this revolving door, particularly if Ponder plays well.
For now, the focus is on the Packers.
“I’ve got to any way I can help Christian out there. He had an excellent week of practice. He’s dropping dimes left and right. I know everybody is excited about moving forward,” Freeman said.
Freeman said his film review of the game didn’t pin down the exact hit that caused the concussion. He said he didn’t start feeling bad until after the flight home. This was his first concussion in the NFL.
“I’ve really appreciated how the coaches have handled it,” Freeman said. “It’s been kind of, ‘OK, all right, take your time, feel it out.’ It hasn’t been, ‘Hurry up and get back.’ They’ve treated it and handled this situation very professionally in allowing me to get back at my own pace, which is, with any head injuries a necessary step.”
Conspiracy theorists were curious about the timing of the injury, given how poorly Freeman played. But he denied any exaggeration or fabrication of his condition.
“All I can do is live in my truth,” Freeman said.
Frazier said Freeman’s inaccuracy was mostly due to mechanical issues, not for a lack of preparedness.
“There were obviously some shots, looking back, I could hit in my sleep, but in the game they were maybe a little high. That made it hard on my guys,” Freeman said. “It’s definitely something that calls for improvement and definitely something that we’re working on day to day.”
After being benched for Cassel earlier this month, Ponder has the job again. The best game of his NFL career came against the Packers last year, a victory by the Vikings to finish the regular season and reach the playoffs. He also had a decent debut in 2011, at home against the Packers.
Maintaining a positive attitude through the disappointment of losing the job after his broken rib was fully healed paid off for Ponder.
“I wasn’t sure if things they were telling me were true or not,” Ponder said this week. “But I stayed focused. Like I said in previous weeks, I can control what I can control, and that was getting better on the field and getting healthy. I’m healthy now. And, again, I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
Tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison, who has been an important blocker in the running game, missed practice again on Friday because of an ankle injury and won’t play on Sunday night. Frazier said his absence is “a pretty big loss.”
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