Notebook: Coach wants to see Christian Ponder learn from his mistakes
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Christian Ponder is in no jeopardy of losing his job as the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback, but after throwing five interceptions in the past two games coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged Monday the rookie needs to stop repeating his errors.
"I know the coaches are going to take a look at it with him today," Frazier said, a day after he lifted Ponder in favor of Joe Webb in the third quarter of a 34-28 loss in Detroit. "What you don't want to do is make the same mistakes repeatedly because that begins to get a little worrisome.
"He is doing some good things to offset some of the errors. We have to continue to accentuate the positives that he is doing and try to eliminate some of the negatives. But I do think he is growing. I think (Sunday) was a part of the maturation process for him, and we will be better for it and he will be better for it in time."
Ponder threw three interceptions in his first three starts, but now has 10 turnovers in his past four games. That includes eight interceptions and two fumbles.
The Vikings trailed the Lions 31-14 when Ponder was yanked after throwing his third pick Sunday. He had three turnovers, including a fumble in the first half, that led to 21 points for the Lions.
For the second game in a row, Ponder had an interception taken back for a touchdown. This time it was Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith who stepped in front of a second-quarter attempt for Greg Camarillo and went 30 yards down the sideline for the score.
The fumble came on the Vikings' first offensive play from scrimmage after Lions defensive end Cliff Avril beat right tackle Phil Loadholt and stripped the ball from Ponder. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch recovered for a touchdown.
While protection broke down, Frazier said Ponder must learn that he has only so much time in certain situations.
"What has to happen is when that back foot hits, if it's not there, you have to get rid of the ball," Frazier said. "You can't hold the ball and he'll learn from that. Those guys on the other side, they get paid too to rush the passer so if you hold that ball longer than you should, that's what can result. ... You can't wait for a guy to get open. It's a little bit of timing."
Ponder, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns, made the start despite missing practice last Wednesday and Thursday because of a hip injury.
Frazier said Ponder came out of the game, "no worse for the wear," and should be able to practice when preparations for Sunday's game against New Orleans begin on Wednesday. Ponder has thrown 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in seven starts for the Vikings.
"There are going to be some times where he is going to be nicked up through a ballgame and he is going to miss some time," Frazier said. "You hope that when it happens again he will have a better feel for what, 'I can and can't do in my preparation and my play as well.' We are hoping that we will look back on it and just see it as a part of his maturation as he eventually leads our team to much success."
Running back Adrian Peterson sat out a third consecutive game Sunday because of a high left ankle sprain, but it appears his return is near.
Frazier said that Peterson was "real close" to returning at the end of last week and there is optimism he will be on the field against the Saints.
Peterson was able to do some work in practice last week. It will be interesting to see if he's able to go through the complete practice on Wednesday.
Take another look
Frazier said the Vikings will send the NFL a copy of the last play of Sunday's game in which replays clearly showed Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy grabbed Webb's facemask as the quarterback lost control of the ball.
No penalty was called by referee John Parry and his crew.
"I had a chance to see that play," Frazier said. "It's no question, it's a facemask. But for us there were so many things happening in that game that if we had done some things a little better earlier, it might not have come down to that one play. But it was definitely one that was missed.
"You would have liked to have seen it called, but we can do some things to avoid putting ourselves in that situation. Six turnovers over the course of the game, five up to that point, really makes it hard to win in our league."
Frazier said Cedric Griffin, "is not in my doghouse," a day after the veteran cornerback expressed frustration after he was benched.
Griffin has struggled all season and was sat down in the first quarter following a 57-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young on which the wide receiver went right by the cornerback without being touched.
"I'm going to do the best that I can do and do what I do," Griffin told reporters when asked about being benched. "But that's on the team (to make that) decision. So, I'm going to make my decision, what I've got to do after the season and they're going to make their decision."
Griffin, who has three years and $14.55 million left on a five-year contract extension signed in March 2009, is attempting to return this year after undergoing reconstructive surgeries on both knees in the past two seasons.
Frazier said Monday that he has yet to talk to Griffin about the situation, adding he had not read the veteran's comments.
"He is a guy who has worked extremely hard for us and battled back from some tough injuries," Frazier said. "He had some moments that were a little bit difficult, but I haven't given up on him and I hope he hasn't given up on himself. We will revisit things this week as we prepare for our next opponent and just see where he fits at that point. But he is not in my doghouse at all."
Frazier took Griffin out of the Vikings base defense late in the Dec. 4 loss to Denver and the next day said Griffin was continuing to play only because there were no other real options.
It is clear Griffin is struggling with his confidence.
"(That has) been something that has kind of been ongoing," Frazier said. "He and I have talked about it on different occasions during the year. About just playing with the confidence that I know he is capable of having, because he has made some plays for us and at times has made some plays for us this season.
"I don't ever want him to get down at that position. It's hard to play corner in our league when you don't play with confidence. You are going to get beat sometimes, but you have to believe in yourself and your abilities in order to be successful at that position.
"If for some reason you are not executing, we don't want it to be because of lack of confidence."
Finding a role for Joe
Webb set a single-game rushing record for a Vikings quarterback Sunday, running for 109 yards on seven carries. That included a 65-yard touchdown run.
While he isn't going to be the Vikings' starting quarterback, Webb is a player who can create huge problems for opposing defenses and should see more playing time.
"No question," Frazier said. "He is a guy who can create plays when there is nothing there and we have to do more as far as getting him out there and try to get him in position to make some plays.
"Especially when Adrian is not playing and we are relying so much on Percy (Harvin). We need all the playmakers on the field that we can get. He is for sure one of our playmakers. So it's something we will continue to explore, we have some packages that we use sporadically. Maybe we go a little bit deeper with some of those packages."
If something had happened to Webb on Sunday, Frazier said the Vikings did have a "small package" of plays for third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels.
Rosenfels rejoined the Vikings on Dec. 2 and has been trying to learn the offense in short order.
• Rookie safety Mistral Raymond has had to leave games a couple of times this season because of cramping in his legs. Frazier said the team has emphasized hydration with Raymond and will continue to do so. "Not only the day before the game or the day of the game, but throughout the week," Frazier said. "That's something we need to stay on him about and continue to press him on."
• The Vikings have approximately 3,500 tickets remaining for the Saints game. Those must be sold by noon Thursday or the game could be blacked out in the Twin Cities.
Tom Pelissero contributed.