Christian Ponder (Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire)
Quarterback Christian Ponder didn’t have to wait long to hear from his head coach after Sunday’s three-interception performance. Leslie Frazier called Ponder on his way home from the game to continue to offer his support. Plus, the Vikings aren’t ruling out Adrian Peterson quite yet, but there are plenty of other injured starters sitting out, too.
Christian Ponder was already at home stewing over a three-interception performance when a call came that he appreciated.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier phoned his rookie quarterback to let him know that the support was still there from coaches and teammates, and that Sunday’s mistakes were part of the process.
“Immediately after the game was a tough time for him. He was really down. I called him on my way home just to encourage him to keep his head up,” Frazier said. “He’s going to win a lot of games for our football team and our organization in the years to come. Moments like these for a young quarterback, whether you’re Peyton Manning or Eli Manning or Tom Brady, whoever it is, that’s not unusual. It’s how you respond to that adversity that determines long-term success. He’s done a good job this week and I think he’ll do a good job on Sunday.”
Actually, Ponder responded better on the field after each one of his interceptions than he may have after he had a chance to digest the performance as a whole. On the series following each of his interceptions, he drove the team into scoring position.
After he threw his first interception – the only one that he didn’t classify as a bad decision – to safety Matt Giordano, Ponder followed it up by getting into field-goal position on the next drive with a 17-yard scramble.
He followed up his second interception, a pass that former Vikings CB Lito Sheppard tipped and DT Tommy Kelly intercepted, with a touchdown drive on the next series. That drive included a 42-yard completion to Devin Aromashodu and a 26-yard touchdown pass on a screen to Percy Harvin.
The third interception was followed up with a 37-yard pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe on Ponder’s next snap, which, in turn, led to a 1-yard toss to TE Kyle Rudolph.
“I learned a long time ago that you can’t let a negative play affect you. You’ve still got to go out and play,” Ponder said. “I think it’s positive that if we do something bad as a team, as an offense we’re still able to go out there and put it behind us and still able to move the ball.”
Despite throwing three interceptions, Ponder still completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 211 yards and ran five times for 71 yards.
Still, with high expectations, the interceptions continued to bother him after the game and as he watched film of himself on Monday.
“I’m pretty hard on myself. I get pretty upset with myself, especially when it’s a mental error that’s easily avoided. With some of those turnovers, it’s pretty easy to avoid – just don’t make a bad decision,” he said. “At the same time, I know there’s a lot for me to learn and grow. … I think I’m my biggest critic, for sure.”
It certainly isn’t his head coach, who continues to show him support and realize the struggles are part of the maturation process of a rookie quarterback.
“He’s a rookie quarterback who is coming along. We realize there are going to be some growing pains with Christian,” Frazier said. “We knew that when we inserted him into the starting lineup and we just continue to battle as a football team.”
That was basically Frazier’s message to Ponder hours after Sunday’s 27-21 loss.
“He was just making sure I was OK, making sure I wasn’t too hard on myself, and said these are the learning situations that we’ll go through, but we’ll get a lot of wins together. So it’s just the start of something,” Ponder said.
“I feel like I’m always hard on myself. I’m my biggest critic. It’s good to hear from the head coach that he’s behind me 100 percent and these are the moments that we’re going to go through. It’s was good to hear from him.”
Ponder said the team’s 2-8 record is “tough to swallow,” but he knew it wouldn’t be easy in the NFL.
“It’s definitely tough. I knew going into it it was going to be tough, the best competition in the world,” he said. “It’s every Sunday that you’re facing the best guys. It’s not like college, when you might face a team that’s a little lesser in talent.”
PETERSON STILL A POSSIBILITY
The Vikings aren’t giving up hope just yet of RB Adrian Peterson playing against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday. Peterson suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to Oakland, but Frazier said Monday it was a Grade-1 sprain, the least severe.
Peterson didn't practice Wedesday, but Frazier said his starting running back would get out of his walking boot on Thursday and would test his ankle on Friday. But …
“If he can’t do anything by Friday, we wouldn’t try to go and work him out on Sunday,” Frazier said.
Ponder wasn’t ready to eliminate the possibility of Peterson playing, either.
“You can’t count out Adrian yet,” Ponder said.
Frazier classified Peterson as the “most questionable” among the players hurt in Sunday’s game, which included TEs Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and Kyle Rudolph (quadriceps). Neither of them were practicing Wednesday.
If one of them isn’t able to play, Frazier said the team has discussed elevating TE Allen Reisner from the practice squad.
Safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) and CB Chris Cook (legal issues) also weren’t practicing Wednesday. Cook has been ruled out of Sunday's game already, which likely will continue for the remainder of the season.
Ponder was added to the injury report with a knee injury and was limited in practice, and Percy Harvin re-appeared on the report with his sore ribs. He, too, was limited, joining Anthony Herrera (knee) and Erin Henderson (hamstring).
DT Christian Ballard (hamstring), T Charlie Johnson (Achilles) and S Jamarca Sanford (shoulder) were all full participants Wednesday.
For the Falcons, CB Brent Grimes (knee), WR Julio Jones (hamstring), CB Kelvin Hayden (toe), DE John Abraham (not injured), TE Tony Gonzalez (not injured) and C Todd McClure (not injured) didn't practice. T Sam Baker (back), G Justin Blalock (ankle), S William Moore(quadriceps), DT Corey Peters (knee) and LB Curtis Lofton (ankle) were limited.
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.