Notebook: In would-be matchup of 2011 quarterbacks, Ponder set to sit
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - It took until Week 15 for the Minnesota Vikings to settle their pecking order at quarterback after trying out an assortment of options to a 4-9-1 record.
But three seasons after the Vikings selected Christian Ponder 12th overall, they're preparing to face another quarterback selected a round later in the same draft with Ponder as their healthy backup.
"I'm just going to do the job of the number two quarterback," Ponder said. "Be ready in case something happens."
Ponder was the fourth quarterback taken in the first 12 picks of 2011. Twenty two players were taken before the next quarterback was selected in the second round when the Cincinnati Bengals took Andy Dalton 35th overall.
After lackluster play ended with a concussion in a Dec. 1 win over the Chicago Bears, Ponder lost the starting job -- again -- to Cassel after a 14-20-1 record since taking over the job fulltime. Ponder missed the Vikings' lone playoff appearance last season since he was drafted. Dalton has a 28-18 record in the same stretch and is 0-2 in two playoff appearances.
"You guys might not believe this, but I don't like juggling quarterbacks. I like to have a quarterback and not even have to worry about that position at all," Coach Leslie Frazier said. "Believe me, things would be a lot better, a lot easier. But we're counting on Matt [Cassel] having success and playing again the next week and leading us to victory the next couple of weeks."
Ponder, 25, wasn't the only first-round bust, as quarterbacks Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert haven't necessarily worked out for the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, but Frazier made no claim that the Vikings wanted to target 2011's duo of successful second-round quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Dalton.
"Christian [Ponder] was our quarterback. We targeted Christian and it worked out fine," Frazier said about drafting him. "He was our guy. We made that decision early on, and fortunately for us, we got to, I think it was at 12, and he was there. There were some other guys that went before him, but it worked out for us."
"I think Christian [Ponder] has done a good job for us. The consistency has been the major issue, from our perspective, with Christian, but we're not displeased with the quarterback that we took and why we took him. Andy [Dalton] has done a good job for their team."
Ponder is 2-6-1 as a starter in his third season, but barring injury, will be the backup for the remaining two games against the Bengals and in the Metrodome finale against the Detroit Lions. As much rope as the Vikings have given Ponder, he threw more than one touchdown pass just once in his nine starts this season and never reached 240 passing yards.
"[I tell him] be ready. Things can change in one snap," Frazier said.
Linebacker Erin Henderson played 11 snaps on Sunday in the team's win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
That's the most playing time Henderson has seen since a Nov. 17 loss at Seattle, two days before his arrest on suspicion of DWI. Henderson did not play the following week due to personal reasons he claims are separate from the arrest, but nonetheless, recent events have clearly impacted his life on and off the football field.
"The organization has done a great job in helping me and assisting me. My family has been there for me and been strong," Henderson said. "It's kind of hard to say. Depression is a weird word. They use it indifferent ways and throw it around in different ways. I think it was more so just the pressure of it all of coming to a head."
"You see the UFC guy just stepped away for a second. He said he felt like he needed to get away from fighting for a second and just needed to clear his head. I think that's a similar situation to where I was at."
Since his absence, linebacker Audie Cole has taken over in the middle, which has moved Henderson back to his original spot since he took over for Ben Leber at weak-side linebacker in 2011.
Henderson played two snaps at middle linebacker on Sunday when Cole needed to sit out, but otherwise is the odd-man-out in the Vikings' little-used base defense.
"[Switching back] was almost kind of boring, honestly. You go from being in the middle of everything and being in the mix all the time and being on the field all the downs to going back to playing the Will, which is not a glorious position at all by any stretch of the imagination," Henderson said. "You're coming off the field a lot of times with the nickel situations. It's kind of been hard for me, a little tough."
The Vikings are getting healthier as all but two players practiced on Wednesday.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and running back Matt Asiata (ankle) sat out, while safety Harrison Smith (toe), guard Brandon Fusco (knee), cornerback Chris Cook (knee) and running backs Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) were limited.
Fusco and Gerhart both vowed to play Sunday, while Rhodes left it up in the air as he's still unsure if he'll be able to practice Thursday.
Tight end John Carlson (concussion), linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist), cornerback Marcus Sherels (shoulder), long snapper Cullen Loeffler (hand) and linebacker Larry Dean (knee) were full participants.