EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Facing the most criticism he’s received in his still young career, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder took another hard look at himself and his play in Sunday’s 23-14 loss at Green Bay.
He’s received support from coaches and teammates. But even Ponder can feel time, in a sense, slipping away, both for this season and the chance to establish himself as a long-term answer at quarterback for the Vikings.
Sunday’s game, when he completed 12 of 25 passes for 119 yards, with a touchdown and two costly interceptions, had many wondering about his future prospects. Coach Leslie Frazier received more questions about Ponder’s starting spot and the timeframe he has to establish himself.
“The clock is still ticking on his improvement and development, and that’s part of evaluating the quarterback position,” Frazier said Monday. “But we are not at a point where we’re going to throw in the towel on Christian Ponder. He’s going to get better, and he’s going to play better this Sunday. I really believe that.”
Facing his own questions about his play and his status as the team’s starter, here are five questions and answers between Ponder and reporters Wednesday during his weekly press conference:
1. Sounds like you were taking a real critical look at yourself after that game Sunday, was there anything that made you want to get so critical?
PONDER: Looking at that loss, we were in that game and some of the mistakes I made were very frustrating. Obviously I’m always critical of myself, but with such an important game and with such costly mistakes just because of me, that was very frustrating. So, it was kind of a wake-up call that obviously I need to be doing some stuff differently and change my game and elevate my play. So that, especially where we are in the season and with the goals that are in our hands, I’ve got to make sure that I give our team a chance to be successful and achieve those goals.
2. How do you go about balancing the turnovers that are in the back of your head and you don’t want to commit those again, but also playing loose and winging the ball around out there?
PONDER: Well, it’s not that hard. Looking back, the mistakes I made were pretty obvious and pretty dumb. So it’s not hard to eliminate those dumb mistakes. We still want to be aggressive. We just have to be so much smarter. I think trying not to force things, especially I think the turnovers came either on first or second down and we want to be smart and not have to make a perfect throw on first or second down; being patient and taking those checkdowns. It just goes back to being a lot more patient and not trying to make the perfect throw. Because it’s not on me, we’ve got so many good players, especially the way Adrian’s running the ball, it’s not on me to make a perfect throw.
3. How have you learned to balance being critical of your play, but not beating yourself up too much?
PONDER: I think through the years I’ve found ways and kind of learned that. I think early on, especially through high school and my early years at Florida St. I was probably way overcritical of myself; would put myself in a negative position to approach practice that next week after a bad loss. So, now just learning to refocus and that’s what makes me excited for the next couple of days at work after a loss like that. I don’t get too frustrated with myself. I go back through the film and look critically at what things I need to improve on, what those mistakes were and kind of get excited to work on those things the rest of the week.
4. How many starts or years do you think it will take before you establish what you’re going to be as an NFL quarterback long-term?
PONDER: I don’t know. I hope not that long; hopefully as soon as possible. I don’t really know. I think it’s hard to establish a timeline like that. Every player is different. Obviously I want to get to that consistent level as soon as possible.
5. It’s kind of routine to see Adrian (Peterson) have big games, do you guys have a sense in the room that you’re actually witnessing greatness?
PONDER: I don’t know. It’s kind of getting to be like a regular thing that we expect him to have these 60-, 80-yard runs for touchdowns. We’re almost maybe taking it for granted. But I think 10 years down the road, when we look back and kind of really think about what he did or after the season think about what he really did, it is really tremendous and amazing what he’s doing. He is a one-of-a-kind player.”