Typically, there aren't many reasons to attend a fourth preseason game. But the Vikings' game against Houston on Thursday night might be the last time Vikings fans get a chance to see the future face of the franchise in action this season.
Christian Ponder, the 12th overall draft pick, will start the game and be followed by Joe Webb as the two of them take their battle for the No. 2 position down to the final week of the preseason. Starter Donovan McNabb's preseason is done. He didn't practice today and won't play on Thursday. The Vikings also released Rhett Bomar earlier today, so it's Ponder and Webb who will split the game. Each is expected to play a half.
Coach Leslie Frazier said it's a big game for the quarterbacks, as well as the guys trying to make the roster.
"We definitely want to see both [quarterbacks], Christian along with Joe, create some separation for that No. 2 spot," Frazier said. "Maybe this game will be an indication of which guy should be No. 2."
Based on watching practices the past month, Webb is ahead of Ponder, but not enough that the race should be called before Thursday night. Webb was the No. 2 QB in the first and third preseason games. Ponder was No. 2 in the second game.
Frazier said after a short practice today that he's still trying to decide which starters, if any, will see action on Thursday. A decision is expected after Tuesday's practice. Most of the starters won't play. The guys still fighting for positions will see limited action.
Other highlights today:
- DE Everson Griffen got some work at weak-side linebacker during practice today. It's a move the Vikings are making as they look for depth at an injury-depleted position, as well as a way to get the athletic 6-3, 273-pound Griffen on the field more. "We have some packages where we want him to stand up sometimes and we thought this would give him an opportunity to get comfortable doing that when we go to some of those packages during the course of the year," Frazier said. Said Griffen: "I don't mind playing a little standup. I like that position." Griffen said he played some at linebacker in high school and at Southern Cal.
- RT Phil Loadholt wasn't at practice because of a family emergency.
- LB Jasper Brinkley has been sent to see a hip specialist. "Brinkley is the guy we're not certain about," Frazier said.
- S Eric Frampton (hip), CB Chris Cook (hamstring),CB Devon Torrence, CB Asher Allen (toe), RB Lorenzo Booker (back), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and offensive lineman Chris DeGeare (concussion) did not practice. CB Cedric Griffin (knee) did some individual work off to the side during a short, light practice without shoulder pads.
- DT Kevin Williams (plantar fasciitis) was a surprise practice participant. He wasn't moving fluidly, but said the foot was OK and that it won't keep him from playing in the opener on Sept. 11. "It's a situation where I feel it's not going to go away until maybe the offseason," Williams said. "We're just going to deal with it and try to grin and bear it."
- Also returning to practice were LB Heath Farwell (hamstring), RB Toby Gerhart (Achilles'/ankle) and LB Ross Homan (concussion) returned to practice today.
- CB Antoine Winfield, who left Saturday's game with a right shoulder stinger, was back at practice.
- Where else would a pair of new Minnesotans spend their off day than the state fair? Apparently that's how Sunday fair-goers Ponder and fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph felt. Ponder ordered up something on a stick that was too big to finish. Kent Youngblood will break down the unfinished stick item as part of a story on Ponder and Webb for tomorrow's paper.
- With Booker missing practice, rookie WR Stephen Burton got some reps at kick returner.
- Frazier said a helmet malfunction by starting WLB Erin Henderson is the reason David Herron ended up in the game with the starters early in the first quarter Saturday night. Herron, who was signed the day before, was understandably confused on a play in which the Cowboys completed a 25-yard pass.
- Frazier didn't rule out the Vikings pursuing Chester Taylor if the Bears release him.