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 mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Craig Johnson's move to the sidelines helps Christian Ponder rebound

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Leslie Frazier Updated: November 12, 2012 - 3:24 PM

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder delivered an encouraging rebound effort in Sunday’s 34-24 win over Detroit, throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, head coach Leslie Frazier credited Ponder for his calm and willingness to move around in the pocket in order to progress through his reads.

Ponder himself admitted he felt more patient and was all-in on the Vikings’ efforts to spread the ball around.

Yet one of the more under-the-radar aids to the young quarterback Sunday may have been the sideline presence of his position coach Craig Johnson, who came down from the coaches’ box for the first time this season to lend instruction up close.

Frazier said that was a move he and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave suggested and brought to both Ponder and Johnson.

“I think they were surprised when they were approached about this being the way we wanted to go,” Frazier said. “But they were very pleased we wanted to go in this direction."

It’s hard to say whether Johnson’s sideline guidance was a major catalyst for Ponder. But it certainly didn’t hurt.

“I felt like it did make a difference yesterday,” Frazier said. “Craig is the guy that talks with [Christian] throughout the week. He's always meeting with him, he's always giving him instructions in practice, he's always taking him through just about everything. Along with Bill's input. But [Christian] spends so much time with Craig. I just said, 'Why not have his position coach on the field doing some of the same things doing some of the same things he does during the week on the sidelines?'

“There's an argument to have that coach upstairs for another pair of eyes for the coordinator. But for where we were and where we are, we just wanted to take a look at this. I thought it did help us."

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