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Wednesday (Ponder, Nelson and convenient QB injuries) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Vikings, Gophers Updated: September 25, 2013 - 9:37 AM

Cassel and Ponder in London /AP photo

Cassel and Ponder in London /AP photo

You likely woke up to news that Christian Ponder hurt his ribs sometime in last week's devastating loss to the Browns and his status for the London game on Sunday is in question.

We would not suggest that the injury is fabricated or manufactured. We would suggest, at the least, that it is convenient.

In fact, both of the major football programs in this town have convenient QB injuries.

The Vikings, of course, are 0-3 and fans are clamoring for backup Matt Cassel to play. Ponder has been up-and-down in his first three games, making plays with his feet but still not looking like the confident pocket passer or playmaker that a team needs to win consistently. Sure, the Vikings have a ton of other problems (O-line play and secondary play rank high), but QB play is still near the top of the list. We venture to say the Vikings would be 2-1 at this point with merely above-average play from that spot.

An injury to Ponder lets everyone off the hook. The Vikings (and GM Rick Spielman) don't have to say they are benching him. Cassel gets a chance to show what what he can do; if he plays well, he likely keeps the job indefinitely, even when Ponder is healed, and we go back to square one in 2014.

Very convenient, if it happens.

The Gophers are dealing with a much different, yet still convenient situation. Philip Nelson has performed adequately, and better than that at times, since taking over the starting job as a true freshman mid-season last year. But one got the sense the Gophers were also itching to see Mitch Leidner play some extended minutes to see what the redshirt freshman was capable of.

Nelson's week 3 hamstring injury opened that door. Leidner finished that game, ran for 151 yards and four TDs last week against San Jose State and will likely get the start against Iowa in the Big Ten opener. In this case, it's convenient to wait until Nelson is absolutely 100 percent healthy -- not 90, not 95, not 99.9 -- before bringing him back into the mix in order to keep looking at Leidner.

The Gophers very well could end up needing both QBs quite a bit down the stretch based on all the QB runs that are part of the playbook.

The Vikings very well could find out they don't want either of their QBs in 2014.

But for now, injuries could be helping both avoid any really tough decisions.

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