Vikings QB Christian Ponder will make his starting debut Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, according to multiple reports, including NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora.
Ponder received his first regular-season action Sunday night against the Chicago Bears and completed 9 of 17 passes for 99 yards, as he relieved veteran starter Donovan McNabb in the fourth quarter.
“I was just going out there and trying to make plays. I was just thinking about what I was supposed to do on each play. I was thinking one play at a time. I wasn’t really thinking about the circumstances,” Ponder said after Sunday’s 39-10 loss to the Bears.
Even McNabb was complimentary of Ponder’s performance, saying he did a “great job.”
“Obviously, when you’re coming in late in the game in that situation, it’s tough, but I thought he did a great job moving the guys down the field,” McNabb said. “He got a great feel of game situation. So, I thought he handled it well.”
Ponder was the Vikings’ first-round pick (No. 12 overall) in April’s draft, and head coach Leslie Frazier has been saying since receiving the job full-time in January that he wanted to establish a young quarterback for the future after the Vikings were relying on Brett Favre the previous two seasons and various other Band-Aid veterans before that. But the NFL lockout didn’t allow for players to work with coaches and Ponder was relegated to working with former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke during the offseason at the Madden Football Academy at IMG.
In six starts with the Vikings, McNabb has completed 94 of 156 passes (60.3 percent) for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, but his inaccuracy has been a growing point of contention for Vikings fans, who booed after his first pass and several times thereafter in the Vikings’ last home game, a 34-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Sunday’s game against the Packers will be Ponder’s first regular-season appearance at Mall of America Field.
McNabb said after Sunday night’s game that he didn’t think his career would end after his 5¾ games with the Vikings, but Frazier said on Monday that he didn’t want to make a decision on his starting quarterback this week and then up “flip-flopping” starting quarterbacks again.
“You don’t want to have to be, week eight or nine, flip-flopping quarterbacks,” Frazier said Monday. “So once the decision is made, if we were to decide to go to Christian, you’d like to be able to decide this is the way to go. But you don’t want to be, in my mind, going back and forth.”
Ponder becomes the third of four first-round quarterbacks selected in April’s draft to start, joining first overall pick Cam Newton, who has started since the beginning of the season for the Carolina Panthers, and Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert.
The Vikings made Ponder just the third quarterback ever taken by the Vikings in the first round in their 51-year draft history, joining Tommy Kramer (1977) and Daunte Culpepper (1999) after a solid career at Florida State.
Ponder was named the Seminoles’ Offensive Most Valuable Player in 2008, starting all 13 games and completing 177 of 318 passes (55.7 percent) for 2,006 yards with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran 119 times for 423 yards and four touchdowns. Injuries were the big question with him, as he missed the final four games in 2009 due to a Grade-3 shoulder separation that required surgery. Before being injured, he completed 227 of 330 passes (68.8 percent) for 2,717 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He started all 12 games as a senior, completing 184 of 299 passes (61.5 percent) for 2,044 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions, adding 100 rushes for 180 yards and four TDs, while playing through a triceps injury and ruptured right bursa sac. He was still a 2010 finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and won the 2010 James Tatum Award, given to the nation’s top student-athlete. He was a two-time team captain who finished with a 22-13 record as a Seminoles starter and was named Most Valuable Player at the Senior Bowl.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.