Christian Ponder could tell Percy Harvin was 'definitely frustrated'
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Christian Ponder attempted to remain upbeat on Wednesday night, shortly after learning his top receiving target, Percy Harvin, had been placed on season-ending injured reserve because of a sprained ankle.
Appearing on "The Tom Pelissero" show on 1500 ESPN, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback said the team now will turn to rookie Jarius Wright and others to provide more in the receiving game.
"We wanted (Harvin) out on the field and he's a key player in this offense, but we've been without him for a couple weeks now and we've got players who are going to have to step up," said Ponder, whose Vikings will face the Bears on Sunday at the Metrodome. "Obviously, Jarius has done a good job of filling in that role and some other guys are going to have to step up."
Wright, a fourth-round pick out of Arkansas, was inactive for the first nine games of the season and did not play until the week after Harvin was injured on Nov. 4 at Seattle. Harvin has missed the past three games.
Asked how Harvin has been taking his absence, Ponder said: "You could tell he was definitely frustrated. He's a guy who is very competitive. He loves the game of football and definitely wanted to be out there. Injuries are tough, it's a part of the game and it is frustrating at times for everyone that is injured. You're playing the game to get out and play on the field.
"You could tell he was frustrated at times but he's that kind of player. He always wants to contribute to the team and get out and play so it's been unfortunate."
Wright caught three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in a 34-24 victory over Detroit on Nov. 11. He had a 54-yard reception, the Vikings' longest pass play of the year, early in that game and then capped the drive with a touchdown catch.
The following week, Wright made seven catches for 49 yards in a loss at Chicago, and last Sunday he had one reception for 13 yards in a loss at Green Bay.
"We're not putting too much pressure on him," Ponder said of Wright. "He's a great player. He's a guy that is really easy to throw to. He runs great routes, you know where he's going to be, he's really quick in and out of his cuts. He's going to make a lot of plays for us. He's going to get out there and play well."
The issue is that Harvin is one of the NFL's elite talents -- he has a team-leading 62 receptions for 677 yards and three touchdowns this season -- and can return kicks. Wright is still learning.
Ponder said the Vikings had yet to address the loss of Harvin for the final four games as a team, but said the fact the veteran already has missed three games means this news won't cause any drastic changes.
"It's kind of been done this way in the past two weeks," Ponder said. "(Offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave has come up with great game plans, and I think Jarius is a guy that's very similar to Percy. We're not going to really change the game plan a whole lot. (We will) use him in the same role that we do with Percy."