What, Christian Ponder was asked, does Monday’s signing of Josh Freeman mean to his future — or lack thereof — with the Vikings.
The 12th overall draft pick only two years ago thought for a second, exhaled and didn’t seem to know quite what to say.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean I’m not management and my focus right now is what I can control, which is getting healthy and preparation. We’ll see what happens. It’s their decision. It’s not my decision.”
Ponder returned to practice Monday and said he threw the ball with “very little pain, if any” to the fractured rib that sidelined him for one game before Sunday’s bye. Coach Leslie Frazier said he’ll wait to see Ponder’s progress this week before naming him or Matt Cassel the starter for Sunday’s game against visiting Carolina. Cassel, who led the team to its only victory of the season in his Vikings debut against the Steelers, is expected to get another start.
Freeman won’t start Sunday, but his presence certainly overshadows any discussion about the short-term starting status of Cassel and Ponder. After all, at 25, the five-year veteran is only 43 days older than Ponder.
“Freeman’s a good player,” Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “He was a first-round draft pick for a reason.”
Freeman was the 17th overall pick by the Buccaneers out of Kansas State in 2009. Like Ponder in Minnesota, Freeman once was considered the Bucs’ quarterback of the future. But a fallout with second-year head coach Greg Schiano this year changed Freeman’s future in Tampa Bay and possibly Ponder’s in Minnesota.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” Ponder said. “I’m a man of faith, so I believe that God has my future in his hands. I don’t know what that means, but I’m trying to get healthy and ultimately I think this will make me a better quarterback.”
Ponder is 0-3 as a starter this season. He ranks 31st in passer rating (65.9) and has seven of his team’s 10 turnovers. But he claims he still has the confidence to lead the Vikings.
“This wasn’t my decision and it’s, I guess, what’s best for the team,” Ponder said. “But in my eyes, I’m getting prepared to play. As long as I play well, then I’m the one on the field.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier also was asked what the Freeman signing meant for Ponder’s future with the Vikings.
“I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team,” Frazier said. “It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian is a professional. He’s going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare and get back on the field and help our team win.”
Ponder said Frazier told him that he has “full confidence” in him as a quarterback. Asked if he can believe those words when Monday’s actions screamed otherwise, Ponder said, “Leslie is a man of faith, so I’m going to take him at his word and I believe what he and [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] say.”
Where things go from here is uncertain but will no doubt be interesting to watch unfold.
“It’s just more competition,” Ponder said. “It makes everybody better. It makes me better, it makes Matt better.”