If you're among those pleading with Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder via Twitter to slide feet first to avoid injury, relax. Ponder and Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave believe the safest way for Ponder to hit the deck is head first.
Musgrave said it's typically a personal preference for quarterbacks when it comes to sliding either feet first or head first. Ponder prefers to slide head first, and Musgrave has solidified that decision.
"Coach Musgrave made this [film] cut-up about sliding head-first versus sliding feet-first and we've never seen someone get hurt sliding head first," Ponder said. "So it's on purpose. When you slide feet-first, you're exposing your body to get hit, and like we saw at Washington and me last year, I got pretty jacked up that game. People are tweeting at me like, `Dude, slide feet-first, what are you doing?' But it's a planned deal."
Musgrave said there's no right answer, except to get down ASAP when the big fellas and their helmets start getting closer.
"I know Drew Brees and John Elway were big head-first guys," Musgrave said. "Other guys are feet-first. Aaron Rodgers does both. What's really important when a quarterback runs is getting down in time, in a timely manner, when those defenders converge. You can maximize or squeeze out the last possible yard but at the same time maintain your health so you can line up for the next play."
Ponder's sliding technique came into question in Friday night's preseason game when he slid head first for a first down on third-and-2 from the Bills' 4-yard line.
"When it's wide open, feet first is fine," Musgrave said. "When the defenders are converging, we just need to get down. We've all seen the vicious hits on Trent Green and Steve Pelluer [sliding feet first] in past years. There's just a fine line. The more a quarterback plays in this league, the more he can ascertain the speed and closing ability of these men playing defense at this level.
"[Sliding head first] gets you down quicker, and we don't want to give a real surface for the defenders to hit. We don't want to expose ourselves by being a periscope up and exposing all of our vital organs and all that stuff. We like to give them a very minimal surface and keep our pads down and get down in a timely manner."
Musgrave played quarterback in the NFL from 1991 to 1996. He spent training camp with the Cowboys in 1991 before moving on to the 49ers from 1991 to 1994 and the Broncos from 1995 to 1996. So he has the unique resume of having backed up four Hall of Famers: Troy Aikman, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Elway.
Asked what his sliding preference was when he played, Musgrave proved he does have a sense of humor.
"I don't know," he said. "It's hard to do a lot of diving from the sideline. I was over there in a very safe spot."
For the record, he preferred sliding head first during the rare occasions that called for it.
In other news from Winter Park today:
- The Vikings are treating this more like a regular-season week that the past two weeks. There will be more game-planning for Friday night's game against the Chargers. The starters will play into the third quarter.
- The Vikings are still gauging whether running back Adrian Peterson will play on Friday. "We probably haven't seen enough yet," Musgrave said. "We'll put him through his paces today, tomorrow and Wednesday. Today is like a Wednesday for us with a Friday night kickoff."
- Receiver Jerome Simpson will get "limited" work on Friday night because of the three-game suspension he has to serve to start the season.
- It's probably just rhetoric designed to keep a starter motivated through the preseason, but Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams had this to say while talking about backup linebacker Marvin Mitchell's ability to play all three linebacker positions: "There's still a battle between he and Erin [Henderson]. We're just kind of waiting to see how that shakes out." Henderson is the incumbent and presumed starter at weak-side linebacker.
- Asked about rookie Audie Cole's two interception returns for touchdowns, Williams said, "Audie's play was a great example of doing exactly what the linebacker coahces ask him to do: Drop in coverage, read the quarterback and make a break on the ball. Nothing any more or less than that. He executed the defense. If the guys do that, in a lot of cases, that will be the result."