EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder was hopeful he’d be able to return last season for the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff game at Green Bay, less than a week after suffering a deep triceps contusion.
That didn’t happen, but Ponder was certain the injury would go away quickly — especially after the season ended with the loss to the Packers in the playoffs.
No one expected what happened a few weeks later.
“The injury came back randomly,” Ponder said Wednesday while taking part in Minnesota offseason conditioning program. “The whole arm swelled up, and I actually had to go to the ER and get that taken care of. It was a little scary with (concerns) about a blood clot. But it ended up being fine.
“The bruise came back. About two weeks after that, all the effects went away. Since then, I’ve been working out probably two months and it’s been fine.”
Ponder has had no reccurrence of the issues with his throwing arm and has returned to regular workouts, but the situation after the season did concern him, especially with doctors talking about rushing him into surgery.
Fortunately, Ponder got a call from Vikings’ head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, who was able to calm down the situation.
“I called Sugs first,” Ponder said. “Thank goodness because the doctor at the ER, obviously she was a great help, but she wanted to go into surgery. She thought it was compartmental syndrome. It was a little scary. Luckily, Sugs called at the right moment and talked to the doctor and said don’t do anything crazy. Just go get an MRI to make sure. And it ended up being fine. They were scaring me with what they wanted to do.”
After the season ended, Ponder showed off the bruising on his right arm, which extended nearly from his elbow to his shoulder. The muscle had completely shut down on Ponder. He eventually started to feel better until it crept up again.
The MRI showed the contusion had returned.
“I don’t know why or how, but it did,” Ponder said. “It was just weird. All of the sudden, the whole thing got rock hard and swelled up. I was scared to death that it was a blood clot, so I went to the ER.”
Ponder feels better now and says he’s been assured the issue shouldn’t return. He’s been back with the team during workouts the past two weeks, lifting and conditioning and then even getting the chance to throw to receivers on the side following the workouts.
Ponder, entering a pivotal third year as Minnesota’s starting quarterback, now has a veteran backup behind him in Matt Cassel and Greg Jennings replacing Percy Harvin as the team’s top receiver. The Vikings also traded up into the first round last week to draft Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with the No. 29 overall pick.
“Well, obviously, there are some changes,” Ponder said. “Obviously, Percy was a very dynamic and good player that we obviously used a lot of the field. We lost a player for sure and Seattle got a good one. But to have Greg come in, obviously, we faced him every year twice (with Green Bay). He was a good player and will be a good player for us. And to draft Cordarrelle and sign a couple of undrafted guys, it’s going to be big. …The dynamic has changed, but I think it’s good.”
Ponder knows the importance of this year in the evaluation of him as Minnesota’s hopeful franchise quarterback. Cassel enters the season as the backup and willing mentor to Ponder.
“This is going into his third year, so each year that he gets more experienced he’s going to get better and better,” Cassel said. “He had an outstanding year last year leading this team to 10-6, so for me it’s only my second week with Christian and I think that we’re still getting to know each other and everything like that. If there’s questions that he has or things that I want to impress upon him, we’ll have that conversation. Again, it’ll be a mutual respect. It’s not like I’m going to come in here and teach him the ropes. He’s a guy that’s had success in this league already, and he’s a guy that’s going to continue to get better.”
The Vikings have insisted Ponder is the starter and Cassel is the No. 2 since signing Cassel, but Ponder is welcoming the fact he’ll be pushed by a player with starting experience.
“Even though they say (he’s the backup), I think there’s always competition,” Ponder said. “Matt has come in and worked his butt off. He’s thrown well. He’s a great asset to have on this team and for me. Some of the things we’ve already talked about are going to help me out. But there’s competition there for both of us.”