Christian Ponder has pretty much seen it all the past four games. And he's not done yet.
He's been the starter/alleged long-term answer at quarterback. He's been the injured quarterback. He's been the healed, but benched quarterback. And now, because of Josh Freeman's concussion, he's now returned as the starting quarterback for Sunday night's game against Green Bay, a team that he helped beat with a playoff berth on the line in Week 17 a year ago.
"It feels good," Ponder said after practice. "I want to be on the field, and this is my opportunity to get back out there again. I think it was good for me to kind of take a step back for a couple weeks and take a deep breath and learn from those first three games and get out there and play better. I’m excited for this opportunity. What a great way to come back out against the Packers at home. It’ll be fun."
Ponder also vowed to be more relaxed and have fun playing the game again. Asked if that's because he's already been benched and basically has nothing to lose, he said, "It couldn't get any worse than that. That's probably fair to say. I think I was playing with a lot of pressure on myself before and never felt in sync. Now is the opportunity to take that deep breath and go out and have fun again. I already got benched, so it can't get worse than that."
Ponder's best game as a pro came in last year's regular-season finale when he tied a career high for touchdown passes (three), set a career high in passer rating and went turnover free in the win over the Packers at the Metrodome.
"The biggest thing for me is to play more relaxed," he said. "I feel like I came out here running the scout team and stuff and practiced relaxed and then came out here running the first team and practiced relaxed, too. That’s going to be big for me.
"It's been an interesting ride. Obviously it swung away from me, it swings back and it's time to grab ahold of it and not let it swing away from me again. It's been obviously up and down. I think it's true to say that I was frustrated and down but I didn't let that effect me. I know this is an opportunity to step back and improve on some things and I did. It's got to translate out to the field though. I'm excited."