Just when you thought the Vikings' quarterback drama couldn't possibly escalate any more, Wednesday rolls around and suddenly Christian Ponder has a rib injury. Wow. You really can't make this up -- though many reading this believe the Vikings are doing just that.
Let me be clear: I do not doubt Ponder has sore ribs. Given the pounding he took against the Browns on Sunday thanks in part to a third-straight substandard performance by what was supposed to be a very good offensive line, he probably hurts everywhere.
But my goodness, talk about fanning the flames of what was already a combustible situation in the eyes of pretty much all Vikings fans!
Let's quickly recap.
The Vikings fall to 0-3 on Sunday as the Metrodome is filled with boos and chants from angry fans calling for backup quarterback Matt Cassel.
On Monday Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, still looking a little stunned by what transpired Sunday, says he's not making any changes to the lineup just for the sake of making changes… and that includes the quarterback situation. Enraged Vikings fans grumble and call for everyone in the organization (except probably Adrian Peterson) to be fired.
On Tuesday, the NFL (and the Vikings' quarterback situation in particular) suddenly morphed into the WWE: "Is that Favre's music?!?!"
Twitter and Facebook nearly melted down after agent Bus Cook said his client Brett Favre was in the best shape of his life and could still play in the NFL, "better than a lot of them out there today."
Talk about throwing sharks into the middle of a tornado.
Delirious Vikings fans frantically started calling for the Wilf private jet to go fetch the Hattiesburg Gunslinger with "blacksmith's arms and 7.5 percent body fat."
And then, as if the mere notion of Favre hopping on a jet to London wasn't enough, the early news out of Vikings camp on Wednesday is that Ponder is injured.
Right on cue, conspiracy theorists jump all over the report. "It's propaganda! It's all a cover! The Vikings are using this as an excuse to bench Ponder! Frazier is being pressured to make the switch and needed a cover story!"
Feeding into the conspiracy theory, my esteemed VikesCentric colleague Patrick Donnelly noted a "Caddyshack" analogy to me via email. Cassel is Danny Noonan to Ponder's Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield): "Oh my arm! It's broken!"
Yes, the timing is, at a minimum, quite suspicious. Then again, teams are not required to release any information on injuries until Wednesday if they play on Sunday. Nonetheless, I'm not sipping the conspiracy Kool Aid. Call me gullible, but I don't doubt Ponder is hurt. The timing is unfortunate, but timing has never been the Vikings' forte now has it?
But wait! That's not all! Now it's my turn to stir the pot.
Just as the Vikings were announcing Ponder's rib injury, news broke over on this side of the pond that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are benching their starting quarterback Josh Freeman this Sunday and replacing him with rookie Mike Glennon.
Got that, Vikings fans?
The Buccaneers – who like the Vikings are 0-3 and have a bye next week – are making the bold decision to bench their starting quarterback. Freeman, like Ponder, is a former first-round pick and is off to a bad start. In fact, Freeman's quarterback rating of 59.3 ranks last (33rd) in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. Ponder by the way is 30th at 65.9.
However, Freeman has a little more on his NFL resume than Ponder. Witness his 2010 season in which he threw for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions, or his 2012 campaign in which he had 4,065 yards passing and 27 touchdowns. And yet they are benching him for a rookie who has never taken an NFL snap.
Say what you want about Cassel, but at least he has NFL experience… some of it pretty good even. Might I also point out – again just to stir things up – that those who fear Cassel might get bludgeoned behind the Vikings' leaky offensive line given his lack of mobility compared to Ponder, that the Steelers rank dead last in the NFL in sacks with just three.
There, I feel like I've done my little part now to feed into the quarterback drama even though I'm actually buying what the Vikings are selling regarding Ponder's ribs. I also think Ponder will start on Sunday in spite of whatever limitations he has in practice this week. Quarterbacks have thrown on flak jackets and played with injured ribs before. The first one that comes to mind is Tony Romo, who fractured a rib and punctured a lung in 2011 and didn't miss a game.
Where it goes from here, who knows? What if Cassel starts or comes on in relief of Ponder on Sunday and the Vikings win? The calls for Cassel to start the rest of the way will be deafening among those Vikings fans not already on the "Tank for Teddy (Bridgewater)" bandwagon.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
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