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Updated: October 26th, 2011 6:15pm
Notebook: Christian Ponder knows there is plenty of work to do

Notebook: Christian Ponder knows there is plenty of work to do

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder learned plenty during his first start for the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, including when to start his pregame preparations.

"I was out there way too early," Ponder said Wednesday during his mid-week press conference at Winter Park. "I was icing my arm before the game even started. I was definitely nervous. There were definitely some butterflies in the air.

"It was good just to get that under the belt and out of the way. You live and you learn. I'm not going to be throwing 500 balls before a game anymore."

Ponder completed 13 of 32 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the Vikings' 33-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome.

Although his statistics were far from spectacular, Ponder received good reviews for his performance. He opened the game with a 72-yard completion to Michael Jenkins that put the ball at the Packers 1-yard line and set up a touchdown.

All but one of Ponder's completions generated a first down or a score and five went for 16 yards or more. He was 7 of 13 for 93 yards on third down as the Vikings converted nine of 16 attempts (56.3 percent) on that down. The Vikings entered the game 17th in the NFL in third-down efficiency at 36 percent.

Ponder, though, wasn't pleased with his work on earlier downs.

"Our first and second downs weren't as good," he said. "I need to do a lot better job of that and getting my second and third reads faster and getting the ball out of my hand. I think that will come with time and the more experience I get under my belt, the slower the game will become."

With the Packers playing a safety in the box on nearly 70 percent of the snaps in order to try to slow running back Adrian Peterson, Ponder wasn't afraid to look downfield.

"We know that that is going to have to be a part of our game, especially when teams are putting seven in the box," he said. "We know we are going to have to pressure off the run game and put pressure on the defense to cover the pass. Big plays are important for us."

Ponder was asked about his celebration after his completion to Jenkins to open the game. The play was ruled a touchdown at first and then changed after a replay review. Ponder ran the length of the field firing imaginary six-shooters and then jumped into Jenkins' arms.

"What do you think? Is that a keeper?" Ponder joked. "Most people tweeted at me that that was a keeper. I don't know we will see. We'll go with the flow. ... I don't know where it came from to be honest with you. I think it was more of a 'Shooter McGavin,' 'Happy Gilmore' deal, but I don't know. Who knows? Don't ask me."

Shortly thereafter Ponder threw a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for his first NFL scoring pass. Ponder immediately got the ball, but as of Wednesday did not know where it was at.

"I don't have it yet," he said. "The equipment guys don't know where it is right now. So we will have to go on a search through the equipment room to find it."

And once Ponder finds it what does he plan to do with the football?

"It might end up next to my pillow, and I'll be sleeping with it every night," he said.

Familiar with Cam

Ponder will be facing the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, meaning he will get to see fellow rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Ponder was the 12th pick in the draft last April; Newton went first overall.

The two spent time together last summer training at the IMG Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

"Obviously he is a great talent and is having an extremely successful first year and is doing really well," Ponder said. "He is a great guy. He is fun to be around and is an extremely hard worker. ... We definitely pushed each other."

'Sad situation'

A day after placing Bernard Berrian on waivers, Jenkins referred to it as "a sad situation," that Frazier dealt with.

"You hate to see that happen in the middle of the season like that, but the decision was made," said Jenkins, who was signed as a free agent after the lockout ended this summer.

Greg Camarillo, who has been inactive for three games this season, said the Vikings have "the next-man-up mentality" and that is what they will employ with Berrian gone.

Of course, considering Berrian's lack of production and the fact he was inactive for two of the past three games, it shouldn't be too tough for the Vikings to move on.

"Coach Frazier's talked about it, and it just opens opportunity for more people," Camarillo said. "We've got to take advantage of it."

Ponder had little reaction to finding out Berrian was no longer his teammate.

"Coach Frazier has done a really good job of keeping distractions away from us and kind of staying the course," Ponder said. "Coach Frazier handled that deal and I think he handled it well. ... We have a lot of good guys on this team and we are looking forward and not looking back."

Camarillo, obtained last year from the Miami Dolphins for Benny Sapp, had an amusing comment when asked about the latest controversy surrounding the Vikings.

"From the minute I got here last year, there's been a relay truck out front waiting to pop the biggest story," he said. "Luckily, it's not as many stories as there were last year. But that's football. We've got to get all the news to the fans."

Getting his chance

Stephen Burton, a seventh-round pick by the Vikings last April out of West Texas A&M, was promoted from the practice squad after Berrian was let go.

The move was somewhat of a surprise considering how raw Burton looked in training camp. During one practice, he surprised everyone by batting down a Hail Mary pass as if he were a defensive back.

"It's funny you bring that play up," Frazier said. "That's a sore spot with him, so be careful if you bring that up to him. His teammates tease him, and he doesn't like to be teased about that play.

"But he's a guy who has really grown from the time we got him, to the point we've been commenting about him over the last two or three weeks."

Frazier said Burton was dealing with hamstring issues during camp, making it tougher for the coaching staff to get a feel for where he was at in terms of development.

"Once he got that injury behind him, you could see the promise that he has," Frazier said. "We're excited to see how he performs now that he has this chance."

Said Burton: "I really wouldn't know how big of an improvement I've made. ... I just felt that every week I got better and better. So, that's the part of practicing - you just want to get better and better. That's what I just continued to do and I believe the coaches saw that."

Burton, who is 6-1, 224 pounds, had 70 receptions for 1,021 yards with 11 touchdowns last season at West Texas A&M.

Line changes

With right guard Anthony Herrera doubtful to play Sunday because of a knee injury, Frazier said Joe Berger probably will get the start at that position at Carolina.

Berger played center last Sunday in place of John Sullivan, who was out because of a concussion, but Sullivan is expected to return against the Panthers.

Rookie Brandon Fusco, a sixth-round pick, replaced Herrera against the Packers.

"He got 13 plays and he really played well," Frazier said of Fusco. "When you consider the amount of reps that he got prior to, it was good to see. It really gives you some hope for the future with him. He exceeded expectations in the 13 plays that he got."

Quick hits

• The Vikings signed G Butch Lewis (Southern California) and WR Kerry Taylor (Arizona State) to the practice squad.

• Although Burton has the ability to be used on returns, Marcus Sherels will continue to handle punt returns on Sunday.

• If Antoine Winfield (neck) can't play at Carolina, Asher Allen would start at the left corner for the second game in a row. That spot had belonged to Chris Cook until he was arrested last Saturday. Cook was charged with a felony on Tuesday.

Tom Pelissero contributed.

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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