Quarterback decisions loom large for Vikings

Joe Webb (Leon Halip/Getty)

Joe Webb has been making it harder for Leslie Frazier to dismiss the possibility of him being a starting quarterback. Frazier is pushing that decision off until the offseason.

Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has been sending mixed signals when it comes to the team's quarterback of the future.

But who can blame him? With Christian Ponder regressing and Joe Webb showing more promise than anyone would have expected, Frazier almost has to leave the door cracked for the possibility that Webb will compete for the job as early as next summer.

Frazier and the Vikings want to stay committed to Ponder. After all, he's the 12th overall draft pick this year. He's the celebrated, hand-picked choice to replace Brett Favre and put some long-term stability in a position that's seen a procession of aging, stopgap quarterbacks come through Minnesota.

But after Webb's outstanding performance in relief of an injured Ponder in Saturday's win at Washington, Frazier hesitated when asked if Webb had earned the right to compete for the starting job in 2012.

"That," Frazier said, "is something we'll have to take a real hard look at. You can't ignore him."

This week, Frazier said Ponder is the starting quarterback, barring injury, and that the coaches need to work harder to incorporate Webb's athleticism into the team's "Blazer" package. But Frazier once again left the door cracked for a possible competition next summer when asked if Ponder is the automatic starter because he's a first-round pick while Webb was a sixth-rounder a year ago.

"We'll talk about a lot of things when the season is over, but I think you always want to do whatever is best for your team, whatever gives your team the best chance to win," Frazier said. "Right now, Christian being our starting quarterback -- that's our belief. But you always want to try to figure out what gives your team the best place to win, period, and not let some other circumstances or events dictate who's in the starting lineup."

Three weeks ago, Webb came off the bench at Detroit after Ponder had turned the ball over four times. In 23 minutes, he ran for 109 yards and a touchdown, threw for 84 yards and a touchdown, and rallied the Vikings from a 31-14 deficit to within one yard of an upset.

At Washington on Saturday, Ponder suffered a concussion with the score tied 10-10. Webb came in and ran for 34 yards and a touchdown, passed for 84 yards and two touchdowns, and snapped a six-game losing streak with four consecutive scoring drives. He completed 4-of-5 passes and finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

He also gave the Vikings a little more to think about when it comes to their quarterback of the future.

NOTES

  • RG Anthony Herrera returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday. He missed Wednesday's practice because of a lower back injury. Frazier expects him to play on Sunday.

  • SS Jamarca Sanford, who is on the injury report with a shoulder injury, practiced on Thursday. The team leader in interceptions with two, Sanford is the only member of the opening-day secondary that has stayed healthy or wasn't benched during the season.

  • CB Asher Allen missed last week's game because of a concussion and is now also dealing with a shoulder injury. But he's been cleared to return from the concussion and the shoulder hasn't kept him from practicing on a full basis this week. He started the year as the dime back, but is now the best cover man of what's left of a depleted unit.

  • QB Christian Ponder made it through all of Thursday's practice and has shown no signs of the concussion that knocked him out of Saturday's game in the third quarter. He needs to finish the season strong to help avoid a slew of doubts following him into an entire offseason.

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