Christian Ponder feels ‘a lot better than I expected to be’

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder didn’t see himself

making it back from a left shoulder dislocation in time to play this week,

after dealing with pain and stiffness over the weekend. 

The past few days have changed Ponder’s outlook. He’s

returned to practice, said he’s feeling better and expects to play on Sunday

with the Minnesota Vikings at Seattle.

“Yeah, that’s the expectation and honestly it’s a lot

better than I expected to be all week,” Ponder said Thursday. “I was a little

pessimistic about what was going to happen over the weekend. I was very

uncomfortable. I woke up Monday and Tuesday and I kept feeling better and

better. Our training staff has done such a great job of getting me to feel

better. So I threw it around a lot more than I expected to yesterday. Practiced

pretty the whole practice. And I thought it went well. And each day it’s going

to keep getting better.’”

Whether Ponder will start for Minnesota on Sunday is up to

coach Leslie Frazier and the team’s medical staff, and no decision has yet been

announced. But all signs point to Ponder being ready to make his fourth

straight start after he practiced again Thursday and was the first quarterback

through the rotation in the portion of practice open to the media.

“Yeah, just got to keep going day to day, see how he is

tomorrow, see if he has any soreness,” Frazier said. “If he does, where is it?

Is there a pain-tolerance issue? So we’re going to see how he does tomorrow.”

Frazier also wouldn’t divulge if Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman

would be the backup to Ponder. With Minnesota’s constant questions at the

quarterback position, Ponder feels that going out and playing through the pain

— which is to his non-throwing shoulder — can rally support in his favor even

more after having his best game of the season last Thursday in leading the

Vikings to two second-half touchdown drives and a come-from-behind win.

“It’s a great opportunity for that and to show guys you can

play with injury, and everybody has the quarterback as the softest position in

the room,” Ponder said. “So it’s an opportunity to get out there and show a

little toughness.’’

Ponder helped Minnesota rally last week, going 17-of-21

passing for 174 yards in the game, and demonstrated his competitiveness while

diving for the end zone on a third-quarter scramble. Ponder, who ended up a

yard short of a touchdown, was hit in the air by Washington’s DeAngelo Hall and

dislocated his shoulder.

Ponder said he will wear a harness in the game to help keep

the shoulder in place, and isn’t concerned about taking another hit.

“I don’t know how it’s going to feel,” Ponder said.

“Obviously, I’m going to get hit at some point. Hopefully not, but we’ll see

how it ends up feeling. But I’m sure it will it be a little painful and, I

don’t know, hopefully the Seahawks don’t have a target on it.”

Ponder said it won’t change the way he plays but he does

know he needs to protect himself. Injuries have been an issue for Ponder in his

short career. He dealt with concussion and knee injuries as a rookie, missed

the playoffs last season with a deep triceps bruise and had his regular-season

starts streak snapped at 29 earlier this season with a fractured rib.

“I think I need to do a better of job of protecting myself

when I run,” Ponder said. “But it’s a big part of my game. I’m not going to try

hinder myself from that.’”

Minnesota is also seeing its offense evolve somewhat with

Ponder available and playing out of the shotgun. Ponder has been particularly

effective playing from the shotgun formation or in hurry-up situations in his

career.

“I think it helps a lot of quarterbacks in today’s day and

age,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “Defenses are so complex that

they can get back there, take a mental picture of it before the ball is snapped

to them or get them back to launching point sooner than they could travel on

their own two feet. It definitely helps.”

Frazier said one reason Ponder excels in shotgun formations

is he often was in the shotgun at Florida State. But Frazier wants to make sure

the focus isn’t taken away from Adrian Peterson and what the MVP running back

does well.

To that point, the Vikings are trying to utilize more

running plays out of the shotgun.

“We’re heading in that direction,” Frazier said. “We had

some shotgun runs the last two weeks and we haven’t always been a shotgun run

team because we have a running back who is very good when you put him directly

behind the center. But you want to play to his strengths as well. We’ll do some

things that will help us, but I don’t think we’ll ever be exclusively an offset

running-back team.”

Peterson knows the offense needs Ponder at his best, too.

“His play is very key to our offense and being balanced, so

we’re going to need him to continue to perform well,” Peterson said. “So his

preparation, I’m sure that’s where he’s looking at this point, coming in and

making sure he’s crossing his Ts and dotting his Is and he’s prepared to go out

there and play his role. We’ve all got a role to play in. We hold each other

accountable, so hopefully we can get him playing the way he played last week.”

Hostile environment in Seattle: The Seahawks are known for

having a loud home crowd at CenturyLink Field and tout the fans as the “12th

man.”

The Vikings, who experienced the atmosphere firsthand in a

30-20 loss at Seattle last year, are ready for this week.

“It makes it fun,” Jared Allen said. “No offense to

Jacksonville or any team like that, but you go down there and the crowd is

empty, feels like fans are 100 yards away. And you know, you go to Seattle and

it’s loud. Trash talking, it’s the way it’s supposed to be. Those environments

are fun to play in, especially if you can get a win there, it makes it that much

sweeter. They talk about tough environments to play in, it’s just loud. It

feels like fans are going to come onto the field and attack you. … People talk

about, ‘Oh, it’s a crazy environment,’ but it’s just loud. It’s what fans are

supposed to do. Makes it fun.”

Simpson status still undecided: Frazier said he still hasn’t

decided if receiver Jerome Simpson, who was arrested on Saturday and charged

with two counts of DWI, would start for Minnesota. Frazier said Simpson, who

leads the team with 491 receiving yards and is second with 33 catches, would

probably play.

As part of the discipline for Simpson, he could lose his

starting assignment to rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.

“Made a decision, but Seattle doesn’t care,” Frazier said.

“Seattle cares about stopping Adrian Peterson. They don’t care who we start at

receiver or quarterback or offensive tackle, they could care less. So, no

reason to name it. That’s a concern about stopping Adrian only. So that’s it.”

More Harvin reaction: There are many familiar faces for the

Vikings in Seattle, including Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell,

quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, linebacker Heath Farwell, receiver Sidney Rice

and even coach Pete Carroll, who was a Minnesota assistant from 1985-89.

But no one is getting more attention this week than receiver

Percy Harvin, who was traded to Seattle in the offseason after a spectacular

but tumultuous four seasons with the Vikings. Harvin is expected to make his

season debut on Sunday against Minnesota.

“I sure hope he isn’t (playing),” Allen said. “Percy is good

enough, let alone coming back with fresh legs and pissed off at us.”

Allen knows stopping Harvin will be a tough task.

“Percy is the type of guy you’ve got to stop him before he

starts,” Allen said. “You can’t let him get going. You can’t let him get in the

open field. That’s where he’s dangerous, those second-effort plays. We

obviously got to see firsthand what he can do. He’s a tough kid. If he’s in

there, we’re going to have to go hit him.”

Peterson said Sunday’s game will feel like a reunion.

Peterson, who said Harvin was the best player he’s played with, was among the

surprised Vikings when Harvin was traded and never thought Minnesota would

trade the talented receiver.

“I don’t really know the depth of the situation,” Peterson

said. “Obviously, we wanted him here and he felt he wanted to go somewhere

else. So he’s somewhere where he’s happy and he’s able to play the game he

loves and we’re looking forward. This is a business and it happens.”

Frazier does know the back story of why things didn’t work

out with Harvin and the Vikings, but didn’t want to get into details.

“A lot of reasons, a lot of reasons,” Frazier said. “A lot

of details in that story.”

Vikings getting healthier after break: Ponder was listed as

limited for the second straight day of practice, but Minnesota is getting much

healthier after not being able to suit up a full roster for last week’s game

against Washington. Playing last Thursday allowed for three extra days of rest

for the Vikings.

Defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) returned to practice for

the first time since Oct. 31 and was limited. Only tight end Kyle Rudolph, out

four to six weeks with a broken foot, missed practice on Thursday. Running back

Matt Asiata (shoulder), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle), defensive tackle

Letroy Guion (chest), guard Charlie Johnson (elbow/toe) and receiver Greg

Jennings (achilles) were limited.

Jennings appeared on the injury report for the first time.

Peterson didn’t practice Thursday and was listed with a groin injury, but

Frazier said it was just a day of rest for Peterson and he’ll be ready to play

on Sunday.

Fullback Jerome Felton (back) and linebacker Erin Henderson

(illness) returned to practice fully. Cornerback Chris Cook (hip), safety

Jamarca Sanford (groin) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion) practiced

in full for the second straight day.

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