Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Ponder on replacement refs: `You can't blame them for anything'

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Packers Updated: September 26, 2012 - 12:42 PM

If you're a Packers fan, now would be a good time to look away.

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was asked during his weekly press conference how he felt about the news that the NFL and its regular officials were close to a deal that would return the regular refs to the field this week.

He started off as expected, saying, "It's something we can't control, and obviously we'll be happy if they come back."

But then Ponder veered in an unpredictable direction: Empathy for the replacement officials that have been bashed relentlessly since the ending of the Packers-Seahawks game on Monday night.

"The thing is, the replacement guys have been put in such a tough situation," Ponder said. "They're doing the best they can and you can't blame them for anything. They're busting their butts to do it. Even when the regular guys come back, they're going to make mistakes as well.

" So I feel bad for them. They're doing a lot of hard work. I appreciate what they're doing."

Asked about the league taking a public relations hit, Ponder said that while he wasn't up to speed on the details of the negotiations with the regular officials, the league, "Did the best they could.

"It's worked. We're playing games. We're playing on the field. It's something that's out of our control and we can't worry about."

And, yes, Ponder did see the blown call that gave the Seahawks a touchdown and the win over the Packers at the end of Monday night's game.

"It was a tough call," Ponder said. "When you're out there, it's so hard to see things in split seconds with things going so fast. It was a tough call. If I stuck myself out there, I don't know what I would have called."

And, finally, this one will really sting for the Cheeseheads. Ponder also was asked if he felt bad for the Packers. 

"No," he said. "No, I don't."

The Vikings play the Packers on Dec. 2.



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