Vikings deactivate Christian Ponder, start Joe Webb in playoff game
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- All week, the Minnesota Vikings believed Christian Ponder would find a way to play despite tightness and swelling in his injured right elbow.
But the elbow didn't progress, a pregame throwing session didn't go well and the Vikings deactivated Ponder for Saturday night's NFC wild-card playoff at Lambeau Field, giving athletic backup Joe Webb his first start at quarterback since the 2010 finale.
According to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau, Webb is the first quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game without throwing a pass in the regular season. He also is the first to start a playoff game with only one career win since Kelly Holcomb with Cleveland in 2003.
This was the first start Ponder has missed since he replaced Donovan McNabb as the starter in Week 7 last season. An NFL source said on Saturday afternoon Ponder is battling bursitis, which he also battled as a senior at Florida State in 2010, but should be able to play through the injury.
Instead, he was deactivated and third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was in uniform as the backup to Webb, who has played three snaps this season -- one series in garbage time on Oct. 7 against Tennessee.
Drafted as a receiver in the sixth round out of UAB in 2010, Webb was moved back to his natural position of quarterback after the Vikings' rookie minicamp. He won his first NFL start on Dec. 28 of his rookie year at Philadelphia and lost five days later at Detroit.
Those are Webb's only NFL starts, though he has made several relief appearances, too, spending some time at receiver and working in the so-called "Blazer" package last season as well. In 17 career games, he has completed 88 of 152 passes (57.9%) for 853 yards, three touchdowns, five interceptions and a 66.6 rating, plus 41 carries for 273 yards (6.7 average) and four touchdowns.
Ponder, Webb and Bethel-Thompson came onto the field for early warmups about 3 hours before kickoff. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman watched Ponder soft-toss about a dozen throws from 10 to 15 yards.
Then, Sugarman walked to the locker room with Ponder while Webb and Bethel-Thompson continued warming up at the other end of the field. Musgrave stopped to speak with general manager Rick Spielman, who went into the locker room, too.
The Packers deactivated receiver Jarrett Boykin, cornerback Davon House, running back James Starks, linebacker Frank Zombo, receiver Donald Driver, defensive tackle Jordan Miller and end Jerel Worthy.