Christian Ponder will be back in Minnesota this weekend, and the former Vikings quarterback doesn’t expect to receive a warm reception when he runs out onto the field at TCF Bank Stadium.
At least Ponder, now with the Oakland Raiders, has a good sense of humor about it.
“Oh, I’m going to get booed,” Ponder told Bay Area reporters. “We were talking about it in the quarterback room, what I should do when I get out on the field. Should I take a bow, or what? What’s going to happen? I’m expecting some boos, but it’s all fun.”
Ponder, a first-round draft pick in 2011, played well enough for the Vikings to make the playoffs in 2012. But in his four years here, he averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt and had more turnovers than touchdowns.
Ponder joined the Raiders this offseason and is battling to be the backup to starter Derek Carr.
He was well-liked in the locker room and carried himself with class in 2014 after the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater to replace him. That’s why Kyle Rudolph, Ponder’s former roommate and fellow 2011 draft class member, hopes Ponder’s prediction proves to be wrong.
“I saw that. I feel bad for him because he did nothing but give everything he had to this organization for four years. He doesn’t deserve it,” the tight end said. “I hope our fans are better than that and they won’t boo him on Saturday night. The Christian I know won’t let it bother him and he’ll go out and play his best.”
The Vikings are still looking for answers after offensive tackle Carter Bykowski last Saturday became the fifth player in 11 months to suffer a pectoral injury.
Bykowski is out for the season, according to a league source. Cornerback Josh Robinson remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list with the partly torn pectoral he suffered in the spring.
Offensive linemen Phil Loadholt and Brandon Fusco have recovered from pectorals torn in 2014.
“It’s a combination of things, really. It’s dehydrated muscles. It’s getting in the position. Sometimes it’s over-strengthening. Sometimes it’s fatigue,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Still, we’re calling around to every expert that we can find and keep digging.”
Big Phil’s return
Speaking of Loadholt, he was back at Winter Park on Thursday for the first time since having season-ending surgery on his Achilles’ tendon two days prior. At the end of the morning walkthrough, he chatted with teammates as they walked off the field.
Many players who are placed on injured reserve choose to rehab their injuries away from the team facility, but Loadholt told Zimmer he plans to stick around.
“He wants to help any way he can,” Zimmer said. “He obviously was devastated when it happened, but I think he’s starting to understand that now he’s got to get back.”
Not so fast …
There has been buzz about Antone Exum since the second-year safety recovered a fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers and picked off a pass last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Zimmer tried to bring the hype train to a halt.
“There’s 118 more plays in a ballgame,” said Zimmer, who wants to see consistency from Exum. “The interception was an overthrow and the fumble, somebody else got and he dove on it. Those are not difficult plays for me. We’re still evaluating that position and we’re trying to find guys that can do what we’re asking them to do.”
Exum is unlikely to get a chance to prove himself against the Raiders. He is not expected to play after missing the whole week of practice with a hamstring injury.
Also sitting out Thursday’s practice were tight ends MyCole Pruitt (ankle) and Brandon Bostick (undisclosed), center John Sullivan (spasms) and nose tackle Shamar Stephen (knee surgery).
Zimmer and rookie cornerback Trae Waynes sat through a 1-on-1 film session Tuesday as Zimmer continues to tweak his technique, which he says is improving.
Zimmer also decided to play Waynes strictly on the outside this week out of concern that he might be asking too much of Waynes by having him learn the slot role, too.
“Maybe I was too overzealous in trying to get him to do too many things,” he said.