The Vikings are hoping the element of surprise between Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman can help make a difference.
Head coach Leslie Frazier said he didn’t think announcing his starting quarterback earlier in the week recently has come back to burn him, but he is deciding to withhold a declaration on the starter Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys until probably Friday, even if he knows that information is likely to get out before then.
“I hope it makes a difference. I don’t know if it will,” Frazier said about not announcing the starter on Wednesday. “Everybody comes in saying we’ve got to stop number 28 so it doesn’t always make a difference but it’s not necessary to have to divulge anything on Wednesday.
“I have an idea of what direction we’re going to go and how we’re going to practice, but I’m not in the frame of mind where I want to divulge that at this point. Our team knows and I’m sure it will get out there at some point. I don’t want to publicly talk about who’s our starting quarterback.”
Ponder started last week, the first time since Week 3, and completed 14 of 21 passes for 145 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and an 86.4 rating.
”I felt that the game was even slower than it was before,” Ponder said.
“It just felt like I was seeing things pretty well, seeing coverage and seeing safety rotations and everything. I could see things pretty well, see the field.”
Frazier admitted that he knew who was going to start. On Monday, he said it was between Freeman and Ponder, and Matt Cassel wouldn’t be a consideration.
Freeman started one game for the Vikings, against the New York Giants on Oct. 21 two weeks after signing a free-agent contract with the Vikings. He completed 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
“We need leadership at that position, but really being like a captain out there on the field and operating our offense efficiently and helping us to get first downs and helping us to score touchdowns in the red zone, all the things that you would ask a quarterback to do,” Frazier said. “The leadership and the consistency is what you’re looking for.”
Freeman suffered a concussion against the Giants and didn’t start practicing last week until Friday, which allowed Ponder back into the rotation. Freeman said on Monday that he stopped feeling the effects of the concussion on Saturday.
“Josh has been cleared, which is a good thing and we’re going to work him this week Jim and see how he does in the actual practices. But he has been cleared so that’s the good news,” Frazier said.
Frazier said Freeman missing practice time – and classroom time – last week because of the concussion “definitely makes a difference,” especially when Freeman didn’t get into the Vikings’ offensive scheme until signing on Oct. 8.
“We’re back this week with a new game plan, a new opponent, so there will be different material introduced and we’ll see how he goes as the week goes on,” Frazier said.
Ponder was the first quarterback taking turns during individual and quarterback-receiver drills, one indication that he could be the choice. He also was the only quarterback that didn’t take turns with the scout team after practice, instead talking to coaches. And, finally, WR Jerome Simpson told the Pioneer Press he believes Ponder will start.
For those scoring at home, the quarterback rotation has gone like this so far: Ponder started the first three games, Cassel the next two, then Freeman one, followed by Ponder’s last start.
Each of them would like to be the consistent starter.
“I’m selfish in that fact and I want to be the guy that’s consistently out there,” Ponder said. “I think guys are handling it pretty well. So everyone is adjusting.”
WR Greg Jennings was added to the injury report this week, sitting out of Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury.
Also not practicing on Wednesday were RB Matt Asiata (personal), Chris Cook (hip), TE Rhett Ellison (ankle), S Jamarca Sanford (groin) and DT Fred Evans (knee). All others participated fully.
For the Cowboys, WR Mile Austin (hamstring), CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring), LB DeVonte Holloman (neck), S Danny McCray (hip/toe), DE DeMarcus Ware (thigh), G Brian Waters (elbow) and S J.J. Wilcox (knee) didn’t practice. S Barry Church (hamstring) and DT Jason Hatcher (neck) 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.