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Updated: October 7th, 2012 9:52pm
Notebook: Christian Ponder says swollen knee didn't bother him much

Notebook: Christian Ponder says swollen knee didn't bother him much

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Christian Ponder wore a protective sleeve on his sore right knee Sunday, but the quarterback didn't express any real concerns about the issue following the Minnesota Vikings' 30-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

"It's just swollen up and a bursa sac deal," Ponder said. "It's not that painful. There is just some pressure in there. I would say it is more uncomfortable than painful. (Eric) Sugarman (the Vikings' athletic trainer) did a great job of getting me ready. It's something that will probably be around for a couple of weeks."

Ponder was listed as limited on the Vikings' injury report on Wednesday and Thursday - he said Sunday he did not miss a single rep in practice - but was able to take part in all of Friday's practice.

He said he hurt the knee in the Vikings' victory at Detroit a week ago when his knee banged against the ground. Coach Leslie Frazier said during the week that Ponder showed real improvement from Wednesday to Thursday.

But Ponder said he wasn't ever that concerned, and although he experienced swelling in the knee it didn't bother him that much.

Ponder completed 25 of 35 passes for 258 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, his first two of the season. He also looked fine as he scrambled three times for 31 yards with a long run of 13 yards.

About those interceptions

Ponder, who entered Sunday as the only starting quarterback in the NFL to not have an interception, saw that streak end late in the second quarter when his pass for tight end Kyle Rudolph was tipped by Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner and picked off by free safety Robert Johnson at the Tennessee 2-yard line.

It was the first interception Ponder had thrown after 143 passes without one this season and came on the play after Tennessee cornerback Ryan Mouton had dropped what appeared to be a sure pick.

Ponder's next pass - which came on the fourth play from scrimmage of the third quarter - also was intercepted. This time safety Jordan Babineaux made a nice play to pick off a pass intended for Jerome Simpson.

"The good thing was with both of those interceptions, they weren't bad decisions, they were bad throws," Ponder said. "The first one, Kyle was wide open, threw it a little high and it bounced around and the second one, I should have waited like a half-second more to let Jerome clear that backer.

"But I shook it off and moved on. That's part of the role, part of the job. I was going to throw an interception at some point this season ... it might happen again, probably will happen again and that's my job, to put the team first and move on and forget about it."

Simpson slowed

Simpson did not catch a pass Sunday and was targeted only three times as his playing time was limited because of a lower leg problem that came up during pregame warm-ups.

"We are still trying to figure out exactly what is going on with his lower leg," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Some of you may have seen us working him out early, trying to figure out if he was going to be able to go or not. We decided to let him play and he did a pretty good job but he wasn't himself.

"We have to run some tests and see what's going on with his lower leg, more the ankle area. We'll know more hopefully tomorrow after they run some tests and try to determine what's going on there."

Resting Winfield

The Vikings opened Sunday's game in their base defense, but instead of having veteran Antoine Winfield at the left cornerback spot, it was rookie Josh Robinson who got the start.

Robinson ordinarily plays the outside corner in nickel situations when Winfield moves inside, but there were times Sunday when they alternated who was playing in base situations.

"One of the things we want to be able to do with Antoine, and some of our other players, is be able to take some snaps off them at this point in the season and hopefully when we get to November, December, we still have a fresh Antoine Winfield and a guy who can really continue to play at a high level for us," Frazier said. "It is his 14th season in the league, so whenever we can take some snaps off him and get Josh a chance to continue to develop, we're going to try to do that."

Winfield, 35, said the coaches came to him last week and told him they wanted to rotate him with Robinson and get him some experience. "It helps me," Winfield said. "Takes the reps off me."

Asked if that was tough on his pride at all, Winfield said: "I've started 14 years in this league. I'm not worried about that. Not at all."

Winfield was added to the Vikings injury report with a knee issue that limited him in practice last Wednesday and Thursday. He said the knee was a "little swollen" but that had nothing to do with why his playing time was scaled back Sunday.

Winfield also had his first interception of the season on Sunday, picking off a Matt Hasselbeck pass in the second quarter that was intended for Nate Washington. That equaled Winfield's interception total from last season.

"We were in a Cover-2, I think they had three wide (receivers) to my side," Winfield said. "They ran a little buck pass, where they hook the slot up, I saw it and the quarterback hit me right in the chest. I made a play."

Got to have it

Linebacker Chad Greenway, who hasn't had an interception since picking off three passes in 2009, nearly had one in the first quarter Sunday.

On a second-and-12 from the Titans 30-yard line, Matt Hasselbeck's pass was broken up by Greenway but he could not hang onto the ball. Greenway would have had a golden opportunity to score if he had picked off the pass.

"I've been around the ball this year more than I have been the last few years, and I catch some hell for not having takeaways, and that's what I'm trying to do," Greenway said. "I'm just disappointed in myself for not making that play.

"I feel like I'm playing some of the best football I've ever played. I've just got to finish those. I'm disappointed. Disappointed more that I didn't hold up my end of the bargain for my teammates. We would have been standing in the end zone having fun. That would have been six, especially with my blazing nine-man speed."

Greenway played nine-man football in high school.

Worth the price of admission

Wide receiver Percy Harvin had two touchdowns for the Vikings on Sunday, including his first receiving score of the season.

That came in the third quarter when he caught a bubble screen from Ponder, proceeded to make two outstanding moves that left Babineaux and linebacker Colin McCarthy wondering where Harvin had gone and then bounced off linebacker Akeem Ayers before getting into the end zone.

"I am blessed with a lot of ability," Harvin said. "That's my thing. I just try to get in open space, ever since I was younger. If I can get in open space, I feel like I can make things happen. It was a missed tackle by them."

Harvin became the ninth Vikings player to catch a pass in 50 consecutive games and the 14th to gain 3,000 receiving yards in a career.

Getting his chance

When free safety Harrison Smith was ejected from Sunday's game in the second quarter for making contact with back judge Steve Freeman, it gave rookie Robert Blanton a chance to get into the game.

Blanton was the Vikings' only other available safety on the active roster for Sunday's game. Mistral Raymond, who opened the season as a starter, is out because of an ankle injury and Andrew Sendejo also is out because of an ankle problem.

That meant Blanton, who has been inactive for two games this season, had to go in. He ended up tying linebacker Jasper Brinkley for third on the team with five tackles, while playing opposite strong safety Jamarca Sanford.

"We have confidence in him," Frazier said of Blanton. "He had a good week of practice. We talked about the possibility (because) we carried three safeties a week ago and we carried three this week. We've been preparing him in case this happened but you hope it doesn't.

Blanton's teammates were impressed by his performance.

"He's confident," cornerback Chris Cook said. "He may have more confidence than anybody on the team. I've never seen a rookie come in and just have that much confidence and play as hard as he has. He has a high motor, high confidence, and that's going to help him a lot and it's going to help him stay around the league for a while."

Added linebacker Chad Greenway: "Robert, he's a gamer. We knew he was a gamer from Day 1 of training camp. He lost a lot of time (to the hamstring), and now that he's back and kind of on special teams, you can see he flashes. He's always around the ball. Great for him to play the way he did stepping in. Didn't seem like we missed a beat."

If something had happened to Sanford or Blanton, a cornerback would have had to move to safety.

"I'd rather not talk about who that would have been," Frazier said. "Hopefully, we won't have to get into that situation where we have to have someone do it."

Gift for gab

When referee Jeff Triplette opened his mike late in the game to announce a penalty, fans got to hear Sanford talking trash to the Titans.

"I was just talking smack," Sanford said. "The ref told me to be quiet, I told him I can't play this game without talking. He just started laughing. I'm just out there having fun, running around with my teammates."

Super Bowl bid

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended Sunday's game and was asked about the Vikings' bid for a Super Bowl in their new stadium.

"I understand they've indicated an interest in maybe doing it around '18 or '19 and so they'll get in the rotation," he said. "We still have a couple of years before we even get to considering that. It will be down the road which is probably good because I think you want to wait and get the stadium up and running."

Indianapolis played host to last season's Super Bowl and New York will have the game next season. But Goodell said there is "no informal rotation," among cold-weather cities when it comes to them getting a Super Bowl.

"It's something we consider as part of the general rotation," he said.

Goodell also said nothing has been decided on how much help the Vikings might get from the NFL in terms of financial assistance on their new stadium.

"At the right time, when the financing is in place, we'll be addressing that with our finance committee," he said. "We'll probably be doing that sometime in the next several months."

Quick hits

• Ponder, Adrian Peterson and Chris Kluwe served as the Vikings' captains on Sunday.

Blair Walsh, who had three field goals on Sunday, established a franchise record for most field goals made by a rookie in a season. He now has 12, breaking the markt set by Mike Mercer in 1961.

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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