LONDON – Quarterback Christian Ponder said his ribs felt better in practice Thursday, but his status for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers remains undecided.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he will consult with Ponder and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman after Friday’s practice to make a final determination. Frazier also dismissed conspiracy theories that Ponder’s injury gives the team a convenient opportunity to make a quarterback switch to see how the offense responds with Matt Cassel under center.
“It’s purely circumstantial if that happens,” Frazier said. “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.”
Soreness prevented Ponder from doing much work Wednesday, but he said he participated more than expected on Thursday.
Ponder wore extra padding around his waist in practice, something he did in college. He said his biggest concern if he plays is taking contact to that area, but he sounded more optimistic a day after his injury was revealed.
“Yeah, there’s definitely progress,” he said. “It will be [Sugarman] and coach’s call, but there’s definitely progress.”
Frazier said he doesn’t anticipate waiting until game day to make a decision.
“We probably wouldn’t put him out there if we didn’t see what we needed to see on Friday,” he said.
Cook looks doubtful
Cornerback Chris Cook did not practice for a second consecutive day because of a groin injury. Frazier said Cook might do some work Friday, but he didn’t sound optimistic that he will be available Sunday.
“I think the fact that he’s not able to practice today leads you to believe that it may be difficult [Friday],” Frazier said.
Cook, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, said he doesn’t want to rush his recovery and risk making it worse.
“When you’re dealing with lower-extremity injuries, you have to take your time because we run a lot,” he said. “You can’t rush back from things like that or you’ll end up tweaking it again.”
Two other injured defensive backs — safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) and cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle) — returned to practice on a limited basis. Frazier said the team might make a roster move, possibly promoting Robert Steeples from the practice squad.
“You don’t want to go into this game with only three healthy corners, especially with all the three wide receiver sets that they show,” Frazier said.
Defensive end Jared Allen found one advantage in playing a “home” game 4,000 miles from Mall of America Field.
“We won’t get booed at home, let’s put it that way, if we don’t play well,” he joked. “I guess that’s a plus.”
Allen also isn’t necessarily buying the notion that a European getaway comes at an ideal time for his 0-3 team.
“We lost two games that we had the lead in the fourth quarter,” he said. “We could be sitting 2-1 and have a totally different outlook. I don’t think we needed the distraction of traveling to another country to play a football game when you’re trying to right the ship. But at the same time, if you use the time properly, yeah, you’re secluded and all you’re doing is focusing on winning a football game. Then, yeah, I think there could be an advantage and it could help right the ship. It’s all how people handle it.”
Give and take
The Vikings generated only 45 takeaways the past two seasons combined. They’ve already collected 10 takeaways in three games this season, second-most in the NFL.
The problem is, their offense also has turned the ball over 10 times, the second-highest total in the NFL, which equals a lot of wasted opportunities.
“You can get as many turnovers as you want,” linebacker Chad Greenway said, “but if you’re not getting the wins, the two don’t really go together unless you’re getting the W’s.”