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Updated: September 26th, 2012 2:18pm
QB will continue to play it smart, even with Jerome Simpson on field

QB will continue to play it smart, even with Jerome Simpson on field

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Jerome Simpson should provide the Minnesota Vikings with the type of threat in the vertical passing game they have been missing for the first three weeks of the season, but don't expect quarterback Christian Ponder to begin taking frequent shots down the field just because the wide receiver is in the mix.

Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season and is fifth in the NFL with a 70.1 completion percentage in part because he has been making good decisions with the football.

"We're not going to try to force things," Ponder said Wednesday when asked about Simpson's return. "We're going to use Jerome to try to get downfield and, obviously, he's got the speed to do it. Try to do some things to get the ball downfield. Again, we want to make big plays but we're not going to force them."

Simpson, who was suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, went through his first regular-season practice with the Vikings on Wednesday. Simpson signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Vikings in April after spending his first four seasons in Cincinnati.

"He's got quite the enthusiasm for the game of football, so I can imagine what he's going to be like in practice (Wednesday)," Ponder said. "Everyone feeds off that energy. He's got so much energy he brings to the table and he loves being out here. He's going to be ready to work."

Ponder also isn't worried that the offseason and training-camp chemistry he developed with Simpson might have been lost.

"It's only been a month and a half," Ponder said of the time Simpson has missed. "It's not like it has been five years. So I think everything is going to be fine. He's going to fit in well."

Ponder's primary focus is on helping the Vikings end an 11-game losing streak in the NFC North on Sunday when they play at Detroit.

The last time Ponder played in Detroit was last Dec. 11, when he was lifted during the third quarter of a 34-28 loss. Ponder went 11 of 21 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, tying his single-game high for last season. He also was sacked three times and had a 60.7 passer rating.

The Vikings trailed 21-0 at one point in the first quarter and were down 31-14 when Joe Webb was brought in to replace Ponder. Ponder played despite having been very limited in practice the previous week because of a hip injury.

"It was definitely a tough game," he said Wednesday when asked about that day. "Three interceptions and dealing with the injury and everything. It was tough. The weird thing is that on offense we moved the ball, we put up points. I just kept making mistakes and turned the ball over. That was definitely a tough game."

Two of Ponder's interceptions led to Lions touchdowns and he was stripped of the ball on his first play from scrimmage on another turnover that resulted in a score.

Webb led a furious Vikings' rally that fell just short.

With the Vikings trailing by six points, the ball at the Detroit 1-yard line and nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Webb fumbled when he was sacked by DeAndre Levy and time expired as the Lions held on. Replays showed that Levy grabbed Webb's facemask on the play but no call was made.

The ball then bounced away from the end zone and was recovered by Lions defensive end Cliff Avril at the Vikings 43-yard line with no time left on the clock.

"I think it definitely hurt my confidence," Ponder said of the Lions loss. "After that, I tried to just regroup. What was the game after that? New Orleans. That was a tough game for me as well. Obviously, my performance never really ... it took a little bit to regroup after that.

"That's something I learned from. Everyone is going to have a tough game. It was obviously not my best performance but you've got to move on. Again, it's week to week. Last week I played well. It's week to week. You've got to move on."

The following week in the Vikings' 42-20 loss to the Saints at the Metrodome, Ponder completed 14 of 31 passes for 120 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked four times and had a 63.9 passer rating. 

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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