Updated: December 26th, 2011 2:11pm
Notebook: Christian Ponder 'doing great' in recovery from concussion

Notebook: Christian Ponder 'doing great' in recovery from concussion

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder will have to go through several steps before he gets back on the field, but there appears a chance the Minnesota Vikings quarterback could return from a concussion to play in the regular-season finale Sunday against Chicago at the Metrodome.

Ponder suffered the concussion early in the third quarter Saturday at Washington on a hit by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who hit the rookie in the head area while Adam Carriker was in the process of throwing him down for a sack.

Eric Sugarman, the Vikings head athletic trainer, said Monday that Ponder was doing much better.

"He's doing great," said Sugarman, who rarely speaks to the media but was made available to discuss Adrian Peterson's knee injury and Ponder's concussion. "We now will take him through the NFL mandated protocol which is the ImPACT test, getting him to be asymptomatic, getting him to exercise without symptoms and then getting cleared by a physician and then ultimately the NFL outside neurologist. He's doing excellent today, really doesn't have any symptoms and I hope for a fast and speedy recovery."

Frazier said it is important that if Ponder is going to get cleared it be sooner rather than later.

"We don't want to get to Friday or Saturday wondering if he is going to get cleared," Frazier said. "We need him to be able to take some snaps in practice and make a good determination about whether or not he can really function at the level we need him to function.

" ... It is important to us to continue to get him the snaps that he needs to continue his development. That's a big part of what we want to be able to get accomplished long term seeing him play at the end of this season, so I am hoping that he will be cleared and play on Sunday."

If Ponder can't go, Joe Webb would get his first start of the season and the third of his career.

Ponder still the starter

Webb has sparked the Vikings after replacing Ponder in two of the past three games, but Frazier made it clear Ponder remains the No. 1 quarterback.

"You do have to take a real good look at Joe," Frazier said. "As I have said a number of times, it's a good situation that we have as an organization. To have two young quarterbacks that you have confidence in and each time Joe has gotten into the ball game, it has really gotten us a spark and really gotten us going.

"But it is something that we will have to talk about and discuss when this season is over. We're going to try to get him more snaps in the Chicago game if we can. We still have got to find out if Christian is going to play this week as well. So there are still some questions that we have to get
answered in that regard."

Webb led three touchdown drives in relief of Ponder in the Vikings' 33-26 victory over Washington on Saturday. Webb completed four of five passes for 84 yards with two touchdowns and also ran five times for 34 yards and another score after taking over with the Vikings down 13-10 and 10:40 left in the third quarter.

Two weeks earlier at Detroit, Webb replaced a struggling Ponder and was able to help cut the Lions lead from 17 to six points. Webb had the Vikings 1-yard from a potential victory but he turned over the ball on the final play.

The Vikings have attempted to use Webb for a few plays at a time. His best use, however, might be for a series at a time when he can get some momentum going and give opposing defenses a change of pace from what Ponder shows.

"That does factor in, when you are not preparing for him and all of sudden he comes in the ball game, it definitely makes a difference from a coordinator's standpoint because they are similar quarterbacks, but dissimilar in so many ways," Frazier said. "You almost have to have two game plans if you think Joe is going to play. And people do.

"They have a Joe Webb package because they know we use him for certain snaps and they have a defensive package for when he's on the field. It's a little different when he starts or comes into the ball game and he's a true quarterback for a number of snaps."

Showing improvement

Cornerback Cedric Griffin, who did not play on defense in the Vikings' loss to New Orleans on Dec. 18, received a positive review from Frazier for his performance Saturday.

Griffin started at the right corner spot and finished with three tackles. 

"Cedric played well," Frazier said. "He was active, he was really into it in all areas. Did a real good job. I'm proud of the way he played and the way he approached things during the week in practice.

"He had his best week of practice and it showed in the way he played on Saturday. He was very competitive, played smart, played the techniques that we asked of him, repeatedly. That's really, really encouraging. ... I was really encouraged by his play and his attitude and effort as well."

Griffin has started 13 of 15 games this season, but was benched in the first quarter of the Vikings' loss at Detroit on Dec. 11 and then against the Saints. Frazier did not go into detail about the situation but said that the issue was with Griffin's confidence. Griffin has torn the ACL in both knees over the past two years.

"We had a number of discussions during the week about where I saw him at and what I thought he needed to do to help this football team," Frazier said. "His response was exactly what we needed.

"It would have been very, very difficult to walk off that field without a win if he didn't play the way he played. He played well enough to give us a chance to win that football game. It was very, very encouraging to see his play."

Asked if Griffin's performance might help keep him on the roster for next season, Frazier said:

"I haven't lost my confidence in Cedric along the way. What I tried to do was encourage him to regain his confidence and believe that he can do certain things that he needs to believe he can do.

"Saturday, he executed some of those things without any inhibitions, without any concerns. He just played freely. If we get that out of him, which I expect us to going forward, there are good things ahead for him."

Quick hits

• Guard Steve Hutchinson and cornerback Asher Allen both missed Saturday's game because of concussions and it's not certain if they will return Sunday. Frazier said that Hutchinson's symptoms have "subsided to a degree" but not to a point where he has been cleared. Allen is "a little ahead" of Hutchinson, according to Frazier. "He has maybe one more test I think he has to take," Frazier said of Allen. "I think we may have him for practice on Wednesday."

• Vikings players were given Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off and will return to practice on Wednesday.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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