Pelissero: Triceps shut down, Christian Ponder had no chance to play
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder got a strange look in his eye when the question was asked but insisted everything was OK.
It was Tuesday, four days before what was supposed to be Ponder's NFL playoff debut, and the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback told reporters he had every intention of being ready.
But Ponder already knew he was in trouble. The blow Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett delivered to his throwing arm two days earlier had left too deep and painful a mark.
"Once I left the game on that Sunday, it was pretty tough to even move it," Ponder said on Monday, a wrap covering the bruise as teammates cleaned out their lockers at Winter Park.
"We were optimistic. We put a lot of time and treatment and we saw progressions each day that maybe we had some hope that by 7 o'clock Saturday night I'd be ready to go. That just didn't come into fruition."
It wasn't just a bruise. The triceps muscle had shut down to the point Ponder couldn't even lob a soccer ball during a session with the Vikings' athletic trainers the day after the injury.
The elbow area was so swollen there was a belief from people who saw the arm Ponder had a recurrence of the bursitis that plagued him during his senior year at Florida State.
In reality, there was no fluid to drain. Ponder simply had no strength in the triceps and knew after an abbreviated pregame workout he still couldn't throw the football.
Backup Joe Webb got the start and the Vikings offense struggled mightily in a 24-10 loss to the Packers, ending their surprising season in the NFC wild-card playoffs.
"Obviously, it wasn't as much fun as I wanted it to be," Ponder said. "I wanted to be out there. Frustrating day. But out of my control."
Peeling back the wrap covering the arm on Monday, Ponder revealed a yellowed upper arm and purple streaks that extended from his armpit to the elbow.
He is gradually regaining flexibility, to the point he now can raise a football to his chest -- which is an improvement over where he was two days ago.
The only work he got in team portions of practice last week were a series of handoffs, interspersed with the lightest of throwing sessions on the sideline.
"I think it's something that will heal up," Ponder said. "No surgery or anything. Just giving it some time and it will get there."
There is no question within the organization Ponder did everything he could to play on Saturday, no matter how it looked from the outside.
Despite the pain, he played his best game six days earlier, completing throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 win over the Packers that propelled the Vikings into the postseason.
He got by on adrenaline then before the worst of the pain, swelling and stiffness kicked in. He believed until the end he had a chance to do it again.
But even Ponder knew by the time inactives were due at 5:30 p.m. Saturday that Webb gave them a better chance to win, no matter how poorly things worked out.
"To know that we had a game like that in Green Bay, we had a very good chance of winning that game," Ponder said. "For myself to let my team down, that's what hurts the most."