EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder finished last Sunday’s game and had to endure the boos throughout the Minnesota Vikings’ 31-27 loss.
As it turns out, Ponder was playing with a rib injury.
The Minnesota Vikings are in England preparing for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and revealed Ponder played though an injury and he was limited during Wednesday’s practice at the team’s hotel outside of London.
“It was early in the game,” Ponder said. “Felt it, wasn’t sure how serious it was and just kind of played through it was fine and got the news yesterday morning that it was injured.”
Ponder, who was 25 of 42 passing for 228 yards in Sunday’s loss, wouldn’t reveal the extent of the injury but is hopeful to play Sunday. Cornerbacks Chris Cook (groin strain) and A.J. Jefferson (ankle), safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) and tight end Rhett Ellison (knee) didn’t practice Wednesday.
Ponder said he played through rib injuries in college and wasn’t an issue. He said he’s focused on playing Sunday.
“I guess the biggest concern is contact,” Ponder said. “But our equipment staff’s going to do a great job, we’re going to find something that will protect it and we’re going to see how throwing goes today. But I was able to throw on Sunday after it happened and my mindset and our mindset is we’re going to push it to the limit and see what we can do, in a smart way. My mindset is I want to play this game and I’m going to do everything possible to do so.”
Frazier said he’s encouraged that Ponder was able to play through the injury last week, but said his availability for Sunday will depend on how he handles the pain this week. If Ponder, ranked 30th in the NFL with a 65.9 quarterback rating, is unable to play, backup Matt Cassel would start.
“I got to see how he does today and see how he progresses today and tomorrow,” Frazier said earlier Wednesday. “And we’ll probably have a better feel on Friday. But today will be a big signal as to what direction we may have to go.”
The injuries to Cook, Jefferson and Sanford add to the concern with the depth in the secondary. Frazier said Marcus Sherels, who played in place of Cook and Jefferson last week, would likely start Sunday if Cook and Jefferson weren’t able to play, with rookie Xavier Rhodes staying as the third cornerback.
“When you get to this point in the season , early in the season, and to already be deep into your depth, it is a concern because it puts a lot of pressure on your special teams as well,” Frazier said. “Because your backup guys on defense are usually your better special teams players and you count on those guys. Now all of a sudden, they’re kicked into starting roles and it has a domino effect. So, you’re hoping they’re going to play well on defense, but you wonder how it’s going to affect you on special teams. So it is a bit of a concern.”
General manager Rick Spielman said the team is keeping an eye on any potential replacements, if needed. And spoke to the logistics of adding players this week with the team in London.
“At 2 (o’ clock) in the morning, I’m sitting there looking at the wire, any potential moves that can be made, the logistics of making those moves and how you get them over to England,” Spielman said. “Does a guy have a passport if you had to bring a player over here? So, that’s been kind of interesting. … We’ll see anything from a personnel standpoint, if we have to do anything, that we’ll be able to get that accomplished.”
Spielman wouldn’t discuss whether the team had talked with cornerback Antoine Winfield or his agent about a return, but said, “I can’t rule anything. You never know.”
Ellison missed last week’s game with a knee injury suffered in Week 2. Frazier said the team would likely try to work with Ellison on the side to gauge his readiness to return.
“He’s making progress, so we’ll take a look and see how he progresses as the week goes on,” Frazier said.