Christian Ponder (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
While Christian Ponder’s status for Sunday’s game is still very much up in the air, the Vikings got another offensive weapon back on the field on a limited basis Thursday. Ponder’s hip continues to bother him while Adrian Peterson’s ankle is improving.
Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder missed his second straight day of practice as he continues to rehabilitate a hip pointer suffered Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Ponder played through the injury and didn’t miss a down, but he was limping visibly as he stepped up to the podium for his weekly Wednesday press conference. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said wasn’t sure how confident he should be about Ponder’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
“I don’t know. I wish I did. He didn’t look too good walking yesterday, so we’ll just have to see if he continues to heal up as the week progresses,” Musgrave said.
Head coach Leslie Frazier said he it would be hard for Ponder to play Sunday if he doesn’t practice at least some on Friday, but the decision will mostly come down to Ponder's mobility.
"He’s a guy who is invested in what we’re doing in the classroom. He’s at practice watching and paying attention. So, he’ll be up on what we’re doing," Frazier said. "It’s just a matter of can he do the things he has to as a quarterback. One of the things he’s done so well is escape pressure with his mobility. So if he can handle that part of it, the mental part he’s exceptional when it comes to that. He’ll get that. It’s a matter of can I protect myself if for some reason things break down.”
If Ponder isn’t able to play in three days, second-year player Joe Webb would be the Vikings’ starter, just as he was last year for the final two games of the season when Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson were injured. Sage Rosenfels, acquired via waivers on Dec. 2, would be Webb’s backup if Ponder can’t play.
Musgrave said lower-body injuries make it harder for quarterbacks to operate than some of the upper-body injuries, including some on the throwing arm. That might be truer with Ponder, given his ability and propensity to scramble.
“Even the quarterbacks that aren’t as good of runners, the quarterbacks I’ve been around, in my experience it’s tougher to play when you’re hurt from the waist down than hurt from the waist up,” Musgrave said. “When you throw, it starts with your foundation, and rhythm and tempo that’s established with your footwork. You can get by more readily with a jammed finger or sore elbow or sprained shoulder than you can with something that happened down there on your foundation.”
Ponder set a franchise record for rookies last week with 381 yards passing, but he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. He said he wanted to get past people telling him about rookie mistakes, but even Musgrave talked about that element of his progress Thursday.
“I think (the turnovers are) coming at a rookie rate. I think all quarterbacks make mistakes. As you get better, you make fewer of them or at a lesser frequency. I think the guys that are playing at an elite level end up making mistakes once a quarter of a season – so once every four games. They’re human. They’re going to make mistakes and not see a defender or make a decision they wish they could have had back. It just goes with the position. Rookies seem to make those mistakes more frequently, and if they can start to eliminate them from their diet, then they can improve and develop.”
Webb has played sparingly at quarterback this year, used mostly in the Blazer package that attempts to take advantage of his running skills. He had been getting more involved as a receiver, but with Ponder’s injury and last week’s release of Donovan McNabb, Webb is back to working almost exclusively at quarterback this week.
“He can jump out of the gym, as we know. He has top-end speed,” Musgrave said. “Not really a refined receiver, but still he finds ways to make plays on the football field.”
RB Adrian Peterson delayed his weekly press conference until Friday, but he returned to the practice field for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 20.
“We’re looking forward to getting Adrian back. It sounds like he’s making progress and we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Musgrave said.
Peterson was still limited Thursday and the debate continues about whether it is worth it to rush him back from a high ankle sprain to play for a team with a 2-10 record, but at least he is making progress. Peterson said last week that he isn’t going to shut it down for the season.
"He had trouble before planting and cutting. He was much better in doing that (Thursday)," Frazier said. "That was one of our concerns because, as we all know, he’s one of those guys that runs hard and he’ll stop on a dime and cut in any direction. He was able to do that (Thursday) without pain, so that was encouraging. We’ll see how he does (Friday), how he feels when he wakes up tomorrow.”
Ponder was the only player that didn’t practice at all on Thursday.
WR Percy Harvin was added to the injury report after suffering a torn ligament in his pinkie finger while trying to brace a fall at Wednesday’s practice, but he is expected to play.
"(The injury) shouldn’t be something that would inhibit him to a great degree," Frazier said. "He has to wear a little piece on his finger, but he’s fine, finished practice and did everything we asked him to do. So he should be fine for the game on Sunday.”
G Steve Hutchinson (illness), RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), DE Brian Robison (concussion), CB Asher Allen (shoulder), LB Chad Greenway (elbow), DE Everson Griffen (quadriceps), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (hand) were limited.
The Lions had an extensive list of players that didn't practice Thursday: S Louis Delmas (knee), DT Nick Fairley (foot), CB Chris Houston (knee), DE Lawrence Jackson (thigh), RB Kevin Smith (ankle), LB Justin Durant (hamstring) and S Amari Sievey (illness).
CB Brandon McDonald (thigh), G Rob Sims (shoulder) and DE Willie Young (ankle) were limited for the Lions.
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.