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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Ponder decision likely Friday

Christian Ponder (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY)
Posted Sep 26, 2013
The Vikings are hoping Christian Ponder can do more Thursday and Friday than he did Wednesday and will likely delay a decision on their starting quarterback until they gauge Ponder’s progress. Plus, the secondary remains a big concern with injuries.
Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wanted to see QB Christian Ponder do more in practice before deciding who will be the team’s starter Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ponder was limited in Wednesday’s practice in England and once again Thursday, although he told reporters did more Thursday, after veteran Matt Cassel took most of the turns with the first-team offense on Wednesday. Frazier wants to see how Ponder responds Friday before making a decision.

“He tried a little bit yesterday and had some soreness, but we’ll see how he does today,” Frazier said before Thursday’s afternoon practice in full pads.

“We’re going to try and give Christian more today to see if he can handle it and try and make a decision by Friday.”

Frazier said Ponder did less than the coaches were hoping for on Wednesday.

The head coach also denied speculation that the injury is a convenient way to insert Matt Cassel as the starter after Ponder’s struggles in the first three games.

“It’s purely circumstantial if that happens,” Frazier said. “I don’t know if there’s any logic in (benching Ponder). We want Christian to play. We want him to get out there and continue to grow and develop as a quarterback. But we signed Matt Cassel for occasions like this – if something were to happen to Christian. We’ll see what happens.

“… If he can do more, that would be great for us. But if he can’t, we think we have a capable guy who can step in there and play well for us.”

In Ponder’s three starts this year, he has completed 59 percent of his 100 pass attempts for 691 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions for a 65.9 passer rating.

Cassel hasn’t thrown a regular-season pass yet for the Vikings after signing a two-year, $7.4 million free-agent contract with the Vikings in March after he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs. In his ninth NFL season, Cassel has completed 58.9 percent of his passes with 82 touchdowns and 57 interceptions for an 80.4 rating.

“We’ll see what happens with this ballgame, but his résumé was impressive and it’s been just as impressive watching him in practice and in the meeting rooms.”


The Vikings could be making a move that shows the dire straits their secondary is in right now.

With Chris Cook sounding more unlikely to play after suffering a groin injury in the first series of last Sunday’s game and A.J. Jefferson questionable with an ankle injury, the team is considering promoting CB Robert Steeples from the practice squad.

“If A.J. Jefferson is not able to go today, we may have to do something like that because you don’t want to go into this game with only three healthy corners, especially with all the three-wide receivers sets that they show,” Frazier said. “We’d have to look at doing something. It just would not be wise playing with three corners.”

While Cook didn’t practice Thursday, Jefferson was limited.

Steeples, however, doesn’t have much experience with the Vikings. He was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 11 after the St. Louis Rams waived him during their roster cutdown on Aug. 26.

On Sunday, Cook played only three defensive snaps before he was hurt and Frazier didn’t sound optimistic Thursday about Cook’s availability for Sunday. Jefferson was inserted in Cook’s spot at right cornerback, but he was burned for a 47-yard touchdown on his first series and hurt his ankle. He played only seven snaps.

The Vikings turned to Marcus Sherels, who played the rest of the snaps (64) on defense and performed well.

Frazier said on Wednesday the Vikings would likely continue to use Sherels on the right side in the base defense instead of having rookie first-round pick Xavier Rhodes switch from his more familiar spot on the left side in the nickel defense. Josh Robinson would continue to start in the base defense on the left side and move inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel defense.


  • In addition to Cook, TE Rhett Ellison (knee) missed Thursday’s fully padded practice.
  • Joining Jefferson as limited in Thursday’s practice were S Jamarca Sanford (hamstring), Ponder (ribs), DT Kevin Williams (knee) and RB Adrian Peterson (coach’s decision). Jefferson and Sanford hadn’t practiced Wednesday.
  • RB Matt Asiata (hamstring) was a full participant Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
  • For the Steelers, DE Brett Keisel (hamstring) returned to full practice Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. TE Heath Miller (knee) was limited on Thursday after not being on the injury report earlier this week.

    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.

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