Christian Ponder wants to be 'more vocal, take hold' of starting QB
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings quarterback carousel took another turn on Wednesday when coach Leslie Frazier announced that he'll 'more than likely' start Christian Ponder on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Josh Freeman, who joined the team two weeks ago and started in Monday night's loss to the New York Giants, suffered a concussion from a hit in the third quarter, according to Frazier. Freeman was diagnosed after reporting concussion-like symptoms on Tuesday.
Ponder had held the starting job since the seventh game after being drafted 12th-overall in 2011. But after a 0-3 start and a fractured rib to start his third season, backup Matt Cassel took control until they signed Freeman on Oct. 8 and pegged him as Monday's starter.
The Vikings will go back to Ponder for the first time since he was sacked six times and fractured a rib in a loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 22.
"It's an opportunity to get back in the saddle and be more vocal and take hold of this position because I don't want to give it back," Ponder said. "I think I was playing with a lot of pressure on myself before and never felt in sync. Now is the opportunity to take that deep breath and go out and have fun again."
Freeman missed Wednesday's practice and there's no word to when he'll be able to return. According to Frazier, Freeman didn't tell him about the hit in the third quarter until Wednesday.
"There was nothing on the sidelines or during the game that made us ask him, 'Are you all right?'" Frazier said. "He didn't say anything about it during the game or even postgame."
Regardless, Ponder will get his fourth start of 2013 after throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions in his three starts this season. Coincidentally, Ponder played the best game of his career last time he faced the Packers - throwing for three touchdowns and a 120.2 quarterback rating in a 37-34 win on Dec. 30.
"Like I said before, it's getting out there and relaxing and having fun. I think these first three games I wasn't have fun and I think guys noticed that. Obviously, I played poorly," Ponder said. "I'm excited to be out here. It's going to be fun for me. It's disappointing when you're not the one playing. It feels all that much better to be out there playing with the guys and having that position again."
The Vikings signed receiver Greg Jennings this offseason in part to help Ponder, whose performance against the Packers on Dec. 30 led them to the playoffs. However, Ponder regressed in his limited action to start the season and didn't make the throws many expected to see out of the third-year quarterback.
Jennings has 24 receptions for 327 yards and two touchdowns during the constant quarterback changes and said he feels the benching may have helped Ponder.
"Matt [Cassel] came in and made some plays and Christian [Ponder] had to take a back seat. Anytime you have to take a back seat, anytime you have to sit down for a minute, it gives you time to reflect and I think he's done that," Jennings said. "I think he's seen how important it is to play at a high level at that position. Even more importantly how important that position is to the overall success of the team and what it takes to hold that position."
"It's not just about your quarterback play, it's about off the field as well 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."
After being hoisted as the team's franchise quarterback for 29 starts, the rug was pulled out from under Ponder as he was unexpectedly benched against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 13 for Cassel after his rib injury healed over the team's bye week.
Frazier continued to tell the media that Ponder was the starter - when healthy - but that wasn't the case two weeks ago as Ponder sat on the sideline as a backup.
He'll get at least one more chance to prove he's the guy on Sunday night.
"I wasn't sure, especially how things went down. I wasn't sure if things they were telling me were true or not," Ponder said. "I already got benched, so it can't get worse than that."