Ponder, the embattled third-year quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, is "more than likely" to start Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, coach Leslie Frazier said after
Josh Freeman reported concussion-like symptoms Tuesday.
Freeman, who started his first game for Minnesota on Monday night since signing with the team two weeks ago, will need to go through the concussion testing protocol. He had assumed the starting role over Ponder and Matt Cassel, but Frazier said the team will have to "proceed as if he's not going to make it."
"Well, the fact that (Freeman is) not able to practice today and you lose today on a short week, makes it tough," Frazier said. "We need to get Christian ready to go."
Frazier said tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and Matt Asiata wouldn't practice Wednesday because of their injuries, but the loss of Freeman continues the rotation among Minnesota's quarterbacks. Freeman became the third Vikings' starting quarterback this season and 11th since Daunte Culpepper suffered a devastating knee injury in 2005.
"At that quarterback position, you want to know who's going to be lining up week in and week out," Frazier said. "But that's the circumstance where we are and Christian will do a good job for us on Sunday night."
Ponder entered this season as the unquestioned starter for the Vikings — a pivotal year for his evaluation in the team's eyes. Then Ponder had five interceptions and two lost fumbles as Minnesota lost the first three games of the season. Ponder said he feels more relaxed now.
"I think I was playing with a lot of pressure on myself before and never felt in sync," Ponder said. "Now is the opportunity to take that deep breath and go out and have fun again. I already got benched, so it can't get worse than that."
Ponder lost his starting job after suffering a broken rib. Cassel started the next two games, the second after Ponder had returned to health. Then Freeman was signed and the plan was for Freeman to start the rest of the season.
Ponder returned to the backup role behind Freeman last week, leaping ahead of Cassel again in the quarterback hierarchy and gets the chance to start again this week.
"It's been an interesting ride," Ponder said of the past four weeks. "Obviously it swung away from me, it swings back and it's time to grab ahold of it and not let it swing away from me again. It's been obviously up and down. I think it's true to say that I was frustrated and down, but I didn't let that affect me. I know this is an opportunity to step back and improve on some things and I did. It's got to translate out to the field though. I'm excited."
Freeman's debut with the Vikings on Monday night was a rough one as he went 20-of-53 passing for 190 yards and threw one interception. Frazier said Freeman would remain the starter, but then the quarterback came in Tuesday afternoon and complained of concussion-like symptoms.
Freeman told Frazier the symptoms might have been caused by a hit he took in the third quarter Monday night, but Freeman didn't tell the team of any issues until Tuesday.
"He didn't mention to me or anyone else," Frazier said of Freeman having issues Monday. "He did say after one of the hits in the third that's when he felt like something may not have been right. That's what he told me this morning. But there was nothing on the sideline or during the game to make us go ask him, 'are you alright?'"
Ponder had the best single game of his career the last time he faced Green Bay. In the regular-season finale last year, with a playoff spot on the line, Ponder threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 win for Minnesota. The 120.2 quarterback rating was the best single-game rating of his career.
Ponder never built off that last game though, struggling in the first three games this season. Maybe stepping back and getting the chance to watch from the sideline will be beneficial to Ponder.
"Any time you have to take a back seat and you have to sit down for a minute, it gives you time to reflect and I think that he's done that," receiver Greg Jennings said. "I think that he's seen how important it is to play at a high level at that position. But even more importantly, how important that position is to the overall success of the team and what it takes to actually hold that position.
"It's not just about your quarterback play, it's about how you lead off the field as well. So, and on the field, how you command the huddle, how you demand things of your teammates, I think he's had an opportunity to see that."
"I want to be on the field, and this is my opportunity to get back out there again," Ponder said. "I think it was good for me to kind of take a step back for a couple weeks and take a deep breath and learn from those first three games and get out there and play better. I'm excited for this opportunity. What a great way to come back out against the Packers at home. It'll be fun."
Frazier said he hopes Ponder plays well Sunday and he isn't thinking about who will start in the future. Ponder sees his chance at earning back his starting spot.
"It's an opportunity to get back in the saddle and be more vocal and take a hold of this position because I don't want to give it back," Ponder said.