EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder’s status with the Minnesota Vikings seems obvious, even though no one within the organization is making grand statements on the quarterback once drafted 12th overall and thought to be the long-term answer at his position.
Minnesota signed Josh Freeman, who had his own falling out with an organization that believed him to be a franchise quarterback, and said he will have the chance to start when he’s acclimated to the team’s offense. All week long, Matt Cassel has been the first quarterback through repetitions, a likely sign he’s in line to start for the second straight game.
Even Ponder seemed resigned to his fate.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s a little disappointing and frustrating,” Ponder said Thursday. “But I’m not going to get too discouraged about it. I’m a man of faith and I know God’s in control. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what the next few weeks, few months hold. We’ll see how everything plays out. But I’m working on a lot of things during practice and trying to get better as a quarterback. I’m enjoying it, being out here with the guys. Who knows how it’s going to play out.”
Ponder said he’s already been told the plan for this week, though coach Leslie Frazier said he won’t make a decision on his starter for this week’s game against Carolina until after Friday’s practice, hoping another day of watching Ponder and Cassel will clarify his decision.
A decision that was based on Ponder’s recovery from a fractured rib appears to have move beyond simply Ponder’s health. Ponder said he’s been cleared to play Sunday and has practiced all week.
“It’s not an open competition, but I want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing,” Frazier said after Thursday’s practice. “When we go through practice tomorrow, see where those guys are and just try to do the best thing for our team.”
Ponder once had unwavering support within the organization, even during the low points of an inconsistent career. But talking to reporters, he seemed despondent and wasn’t sure of his future.
“Some of the dynamics of this organization have changed, obviously, with bringing in Josh,” Ponder said. “But I’m preparing like I’m going to be on the field, and my biggest focus is to controlling what I can control. And what’s out of my hands is out of my hands.”
Ponder, who said he still has the support of the organization, said he’s talked with Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman about his situation. He wants to be in Minnesota and said a trade would be “difficult to deal with.”
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Ponder said. “I hope to still be here. It’s the front office’s call. You never know, as we’ve seen the past week, what’s going to happen.”
Without Frazier or the team saying who will start Sunday, Ponder said he is preparing as if he’s the starter and his role hasn’t changed. He said he still as some stiffness and pain with his fractured rib, but the bye week helped him return and he’s ready to play.
“My focus is what I can control,” Ponder said. “Those things I can’t control. I spent a little time worrying about it and realized that that’s no good and it’s not going to help me out. So my focus is what I can control and that’s getting healthy, which I have been doing, and getting better on the football field, which I feel like I’ve been doing. I feel like I’ve had a good three days this week. I’ve been throwing the ball really well, which I’m excited about. I’m going to continue to work on some things and let everything play out.”