It’s a done deal. And permanent too. That’s the hope at Winter Park anyway.
On Wednesday morning, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier stopped delaying the inevitable and made the official declaration. Rookie Christian Ponder is now the starting quarterback. And barring injury or some other unforeseen circumstance, Ponder will start the team’s final 10 games.
The first start comes Sunday versus the undefeated Packers at Mall of America Field.
“This does not mean that I am giving up on the 2011 season or that our coaching staff if giving up on the 2011 season,” Frazier said. “The decision was made purely on what will gives us the best chance to win on Sunday. That’s why the decision was made. I didn’t feel or sense that staying status quo was going to get us a win on Sunday. Based on that, along with some other things that I looked at, I decided this was the direction we needed to go at this point in our season."
Realistically, it’s far too late for Ponder to revive a 2011 season that has the Vikings at 1-5 and ahead of only the Rams in the NFC standings. But it’s certainly not too early to start getting the 23-year-old some much-needed game experience. And while Frazier insisted repeatedly Wednesday that he promoted Ponder over Donovan McNabb to give the Vikings the best chance at winning Sunday’s home game with Green Bay, there’s far greater long-term value for the franchise in making the switch now.
“There’s no question that the fact that he’ll get a chance to start playing in Week 7 of our season, it should help him in the future,” Frazier said. “But that was not a part of my thinking.”
Ponder? Well, he was predictably giddy Wednesday. After seeing his first regular season action during garbage time Sunday in a 39-10 loss in Chicago, Ponder is now just a little more equipped to take over the huddle for good. Ponder was 9-for-17 against the Bears for 99 yards.
“The biggest thing for me was going out and making a couple of throws and making a couple of plays and realizing, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” he said. “I think it instilled a little confidence in myself. And I think it was that first step, that first experience. I’m going to try to build up from there.”
Injury update: Ponder’s first start will almost certainly have some rough patches, particularly with the Vikings’ offensive line as beat up as it is. Frazier said right tackle Phil Loadholt is questionable to play Sunday, still dealing with a bruised knee that he suffered against the Bears. Center John Sullivan is also still being evaluated after suffering a concussion in Sunday’s loss. On top of that, now left tackle Charlie Johnson is also dealing with a triceps injury and Steve Hutchinson has significant swelling in his knee that may slow him down. ... Cornerback Antoine Winfield is expected to return to practice Wednesday afternoon after missing the previous two games with a neck injury.
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