5 questions: Ponder looking to improve on last week's strong performance
The embattled but currently No. 1 Vikings quarterback discusses why he can be a franchise player.
By BRIAN HALLFS North
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – There’s been a momentary stop in the carousel of Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks this season, and Christian Ponder is the lead horse.
With a short week of preparation and an improved performance in Sunday’s loss at Dallas, Ponder will start Thursday night’s home game against the Washington Redskins. Ponder, who went 25-of-37 passing for 236 yards, one touchdown and an interception on Sunday, will start his third straight game, the second time in nine games this season he’ll start three in a row.
Coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman have said winning each game is the only consideration in selecting between Ponder and Josh Freeman, who was signed to potentially take Ponder’s place as the starter.
Ponder, according to Frazier and Spielman, has the chance to take the job and never let it go.
“Well, Christian knows from me that we want him to succeed,” Frazier said Tuesday, four days after Spielman met with reporters and said he’d have no issues with Ponder securing the job through his play on the field.
Frazier continued: “(Ponder) has no reason to look over his shoulder and say if this happens (that's) negative like an interception on (Thursday against Washington) you’re going to be pulled, or sack-fumble in the end zone you’re going to be pulled. He doesn't have to worry about that. He has to worry about playing well. That’s all he has to worry about.”
As the starting quarterback, Ponder returned to the podium for a weekly press conference. Here are five responses from Ponder’s meeting with reporters on Tuesday:
1. What are the challenges of trying to digest the game plan in two days?
PONDER: Yeah, you want as many days to prepare, but its equal playing field. We’re fortunate that we’re at home and we don’t have to travel. There’s got to be a lot of focus today, a lot of studying off the field in preparation and more studying tomorrow and everything. But there’s going to be a lot to cover today, a lot of thinking going on and I think guys are prepared for that. Again, the walk-through, we went basically through our whole install and went out to walk-through and guys were pretty focused, which was good to see.”
2. In terms of looking long-term, how optimistic are you that you can be the Vikings franchise quarterback moving forward?
PONDER: Yeah, I know I can. Obviously my play will determine that on the field and I have to play better. But again, my future right now is this game and hopefully once I have a good game Thursday, that will play out itself. I understand that we have eight games left in this regular season to do so.
3. Coach Frazier said you have no reason to look over your shoulder when it comes to Josh. But how do you approach that whole situation knowing that there’s a guy they want to evaluate right behind you?
PONDER: I don’t focus on it. It’s been great to have Josh in the room. He’s a good guy to be around. He’s another guy that brings a lot of knowledge to the game and it only helps me out. I understand it’s a competition, and it’s been a competition all year with Matt being here. So, I’m not worried about it. I’m focused on increasing my play. I’m competitive against myself as much as those guys. I understand I've got to keep getting better. I want to make sure that everyone’s confident that I’m the guy out there that needs to be playing.”
4. Since you are pretty good on your feet, is it difficult to always think pass-first or has that been one of the bigger adjustments for you just to make sure you’re patient enough?
PONDER: Yeah, I think that’s something I fought as a younger player, but I feel like I've kind of found the balance. It’s something that I can always continue to keep improving on, but I do want to throw first and run second. But I think I’m doing a better job of it and it’s something I’m not really fighting anymore. There are times I have escaped the pocket early and need to stay in there and be more patient and trust everything that’s going on.
5. Why do you think you can be that guy (a franchise quarterback) in Minnesota?
PONDER: I think I fully trust in my ability and everything that’s going on. I believe we made the playoffs last year. Obviously, this year has been a little tougher, but I believe in what I can do and expect things will work out.”