Notebook: Christian Ponder adjusting to game speed; injury list grows
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder's passing line in his NFL preseason debut wasn't bad: 8-of-13 for 84 yards and an 80.3 passer rating.
However, those numbers don't reflect the three sacks the rookie quarterback took behind the Minnesota Vikings' second- and third-string offensive lines -- two of them ending drives in a 14-3 loss at Tennessee.
"There were some times where I could have got the ball out faster or tried to get out of the pocket a little bit faster," Ponder said on Thursday. "Ultimately, it's on me to get it done. I've got to react to what's going on and be a quarterback and make decisions."
Ponder was trying to scramble on the first sack, which came on third-and-5 in the third quarter after right tackle Scott Kooistra was beaten and a miscommunication between left guard Seth Olsen and center Jon Cooper let another man through.
Rookie center Brandon Fusco was beaten on the second sack, which yielded an 8-yard loss, and the third was the result of a blitz on fourth-and-2 as Ponder tried in vein to throw the ball into the end zone.
"Right now, I'm in that stage where I'm thinking about a lot of things, a lot of things in my head and then adjusting to the speed of the game," Ponder said. "It's that time right now, but I think I'm adjusting. Things are starting to slow down. I'm starting to be more comfortable in the pocket and relaxing a little bit, rather than having all these things in my head."
He'll get a chance to show progress on Saturday at Seattle, where he'll be the second Vikings quarterback on the field after starter Donovan McNabb and in theory get more reps with experienced players around him. Joe Webb will run the third team, and Rhett Bomar may get cleanup duty.
"I'd like to see (Ponder) continue to improve in all areas, his grasp of the offense, some of his throws, his command of the huddle," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Those are some of the things that you're trying to judge him on and he is making progress. Now, you want to continue to see him in game situations and see how he progresses."
The Vikings' growing injury list added two more members on Thursday. Cornerback Asher Allen sat out practice because of a nagging toe injury, and linebacker Erin Henderson rested the knee he bumped in practice on Wednesday.
"I don't know if we're going to play Asher" on Saturday, Frazier said. "He has a toe that's really bothering him. Erin should be fine -- wanted to give him a little bit of rest and then he should be ready to go."
The Vikings have ruled out at least six players for Saturday: receivers Percy Harvin (ribs) and Greg Camarillo (groin), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), linebackers Heath Farwell (hamstring) and Kenny Onatolu (foot) and guard Anthony Herrera (knee/triceps), who returned to practice on Monday but didn't participate in Thursday's contact drills.
"I think we're going to hold (Herrera) this week and just reevaluate it next week," Frazier said. "He's had a chance now to kind of get his feet wet a little bit and maybe get his confidence a little bit more. So, we'll see how he does next week in practice, and maybe, we'll give him a shot in that game -- depending on how he does in practice."
Rookie fullback Matt Asiata missed the past two days with a hip flexor injury and probably won't play either.
End D'Aundre Reed (calf) returned to practice on Thursday. Safety Mistral Raymond, who missed the Tennessee game with a sore hamstring, practiced the entire week and is on track to make his preseason debut.
• Jamarca Sanford started at safety opposite Husain Abdullah at Tennessee. On Saturday, it'll be Tyrell Johnson, who lost his starting job to Abdullah in the preseason last year. "He's very close," Frazier said of Johnson. "He's experienced in our system and he knows what we expect, and these are great opportunities for him to show that he deserves this job, and I'm looking forward to watching him play on Saturday night."
• Chris DeGeare, who practiced the entire week at right tackle, or Ryan Cook will start at right guard, Frazier said. However, Kooistra took all the first-team reps there on Thursday. "You would like to be able to say in that third preseason game that this is our starting unit," Frazier said, "but that may not be the case."
• The Bodog Sportsbook gave the Vikings 17-to-2 odds for winning the NFC North Division, the longest of any team. Green Bay is heavily favored at 5-to-11, followed by Chicago (9-to-2) and Detroit (11-to-2).