Bill Musgrave confirms he wants Christian Ponder sliding headfirst
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Bill Musgrave says Christian Ponder doesn't need to dive headfirst every time he leaves the pocket.
But the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator confirmed on Monday he has shown cut-ups to Ponder that suggest sliding feet first is far more dangerous to a quarterback's health.
"It's a personal preference, and what's really important when a quarterback runs is getting down in time ... as those defenders converge," Musgrave said. "You can maximize or squeeze out the last possible yard, but at the same time, maintain your health so you can line up for the next play."
Ponder took one big hit on a feet-first slide last season -- a blow to the chin from Washington Redskins safety Reed Doughty on Dec. 24 that drew a $15,000 fine.
He revealed after Friday's exhibition win against Buffalo he has since been instructed by Musgrave to dive headfirst, as he did on a 3-yard scramble that set up a Vikings touchdown.
"Coach Musgrave made this cut-up about sliding head first versus sliding feet first and we've never seen someone get hurt sliding head first," Ponder said.
"So, it's on purpose. When you slide feet first, you're exposing your body to get hit and like we saw at Washington (with) me last year, I got pretty jacked up that game.
"People are tweeting at me like, 'Dude, slide feet first, what are you doing?' But it's a planned deal."
Musgrave pointed to his former teammate in Denver, John Elway, as well as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees as two prominent headfirst divers.
The upside, according to Musgrave, is it gets the player to the ground more quickly "and we don't want to give a real surface for the defenders to hit. We don't want to expose ourselves by being a periscope up and exposing all our vital organs and that stuff."
Musgrave pointed to "vicious" hits laid on quarterbacks Steve Pelluer -- by current Vikings assistant coach Mike Singletary when he played for the Chicago Bears in 1985 -- and Trent Green as evidence of how going feet-first can be dangerous.
Such hits may draw flags, since the quarterback is protected on feet-first slides. But that doesn't keep the quarterback in the game.
"We want to protect ourselves, and when it's wide open, feet-first is fine," Musgrave said. "When the defenders are converging, we just need to get down."
Musgrave didn't have many chances to slide in his playing days. He played in only 12 NFL games over six seasons as a backup in San Francisco and Denver and finished with minus-11 yards on 19 career carries -- presumably including many kneeldowns.
"It was hard to do a lot of diving from the sideline," Musgrave said. "I was over there in a very safe spot. But in those preseason games at the end, I think I always tried to (go headfirst). I wanted to emulate the way John Elway would run it.
"That was always easy to keep my pads down. I always run with a lot of forward lean and just kind of turned out to be the tree kind of timbering down."