Christian Ponder (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)
The Vikings are waiting to see if Christian Ponder can recover from a concussion on time to play in the season finale Sunday, but if he can, he will be the team’s starter over Joe Webb.
Despite the Vikings’ continued intrigue with Joe Webb as a quarterback and his perfect passer rating Saturday against the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Christian Ponder remains the team’s starting quarterback.
“Christian is still our No. 1 quarterback, but you do have to take a real good look at Joe,” Frazier said. “As I have said a number of times, it’s a good situation that we have as an organization – to have two young quarterbacks that you have confidence in, and each time Joe has gotten into the ballgame it has really gotten us a spark and really gotten us going.”
Webb completed 4 of 5 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns and added another rushing touchdown to help lead the Vikings to a 33-26 win on the road after Ponder suffered a concussion on the first series of the second half. He took over with the Vikings trailing 13-10.
Webb might have another chance to “spark” the offense in the season finale against the Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field. Ponder hasn’t passed his NFL-mandated, post-concussion impact test, although he is doing better two days later, according to certified athletic trainer Eric Sugarman.
“He’s doing great. We now will take him through the NFL-mandated protocol, which is the impact test, getting him to be asymptomatic, getting him to exercise without symptoms and getting cleared by a physician and ultimately the NFL outside neurologist,” Sugarman said. “He’s doing excellent (on Monday), really doesn’t have any symptoms, and I hope for a fast and speedy recovery.”
Webb has only thrown passes in five games this year, and only once this season did he have more than the five attempts he had on Saturday. For the season, he has completed 17 of 31 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns and a 103.7 passer rating. His limited performance Saturday produced a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
In nine starts, Ponder has completed 154 of 281 passes for 1,825 yards, 13 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 72.4 passer rating.
Frazier has continued to stick by Ponder as the team’s long-term solution after the Vikings selected him 12th overall in April’s draft. But twice since Webb’s performance on Saturday, Frazier has indicated that Webb is giving them a reason to look harder at him as a possible starter in the future.
“It is something that we will have to talk about and discuss when this season is over. We’re going to try to get him more snaps in the Chicago game if we can,” Frazier said. “We still got to find out if Christian is going to play this week as well. So there are still some questions that we have to get answered in that regard.”
The coaching staff is hoping Ponder will pass his impact test this week.
The question is whether defensive coordinators would have more success against Webb if they knew he was going to be the starter and be able to better game-plan against his running abilities with a week of practice preparation.
“That does factor in,” Frazier said. “When you are not preparing for him and all of the sudden he comes in the ballgame, it definitely makes a difference from a coordinator’s standpoint because they are similar quarterbacks, but dissimilar in so many ways. You almost have to have two game plans if you think Joe is going to play. And people do.”
In addition to the two times Webb has seen extensive action at quarterback this season – when Ponder was pulled from a 34-28 loss to the Detroit Lions and Saturday after suffering his concussion – Webb has been used sparingly in the Vikings’ “Blazer Package,” which tends to feature Webb’s running ability with option-like plays.
But if Ponder recovers in time to adequately prepare for the season finale Sunday against the Bears, he will be the starter.
“We’re hoping that Christian gets through the concussion test and is able to play. It is important to us to continue to get him the snaps that he needs to continue his development,” Frazier said. “That’s a big part of what we want be able to get accomplished long term seeing him play at the end of this season, so I am hoping that he will be cleared and play on Sunday.”
The Vikings officially placed RB Adrian Peterson on injured reserve after he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee and promoted former practice squad running back Caleb King to the 53-man roster. King appeared in eight games, starting five, for the Georgia Bulldogs last year. He also made five starts for the Bulldogs in 2009, and ended his career with 1,271 yards on 255 carries over his three seasons at Georgia.
TE Allen Reisner was waived from the Vikings' 53-man roster and TE Mickey Shuler was promoted from the practice squad Monday. Shuler was a seventh-round draft choice in 2010 who was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins that year. Shuler played in six games last year for the Dolphins but has not played in a game this season.
Guard Steve Hutchinson is still recovering from a concussion he suffered Dec. 18 against the New Orleans Saints. He hasn’t been cleared to practice yet.
CB Asher Allen, who also suffered a concussion against the Saints, but he is “a little further along” in his recovery than Hutchinson, Frazier said. “He has maybe one more test I think he has to take. I think we may have him for practice on Wednesday.”
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.