Christian Ponder wants to let loose Saturday. He said as much after practice this afternoon, eager to put woeful performances against Detroit and New Orleans behind him as quickly as possible.

Ponder was 11-for-21 for 115 yards with four turnovers against the Lions 10 days ago when he was pulled in the third quarter. His attempt to rebound against the Saints didn't go much better. Through three quarters, he completed four of 13 passes for 18 yards and was sacked three times. The rookie finished that game 14-for-31 for 120 yards with two TD tosses to Toby Gerhart. But much of that production came long after the game was out of reach and the Saints defense had let off the gas.

Ponder thinks his turnover binge the previous two weeks -- seven total turnovers against Denver and Detroit -- might have had him a little gun shy.

"This past game I think I became a little too conservative and threw some balls away and didn't try to make plays," Ponder said. "And I think by the time we started playing better and I started throwing the ball better in the fourth quarter, it was already too late obviously. So I have to go out and have fun and know that we can make plays left and right and not be conservative with the ball. ... That's not me. I can't play not to lose. I have to play to win."

On Monday, Visanthe Shiancoe said teammates

must continue to support Ponder without being onoxiously encouraging

to the point that they get in the young quarterback's head.

Ponder appreciates the vocal support he's been getting in the midst of his recent struggles.

"It always helps hearing positive things from teammates and knowing that they're going to have your back," he said. "They've done a great job of not being in my head too much. They don't really give me advice; obviously they don't play the quarterback position. But they do a good job with, 'Keep your head up. Let's stay competitive. We believe in you.' Those kind of things mean a lot. It's great to know those guys have your back."

Injury update: Both cornerback Asher Allen and guard Steve Hutchinson missed today's practice as they continue recovering from concussions suffered Sunday against the Saints. It is not yet known whether either player will make the trip to Washington. If Allen were out, the Vikings would likely start Benny Sapp and Brandon Burton at cornerback with Marcus Sherels playing the nickelback role and Cedric Griffin relied on at times as well. Hutchinson's absence would force Joe Berger into the starting lineup at left guard. Berger has started at two other positions this season, playing center during the Week 7 loss to Green Bay when John Sullivan was out with a concussion. Berger also started four games in place of Anthony Herrera at left guard while Herrera was dealing with an MCL injury.


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