Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder tried throughout the week to increase the flexibility in his throwing arm, but it was clear in pregame warmups he didn’t have the velocity needed to make a go of it in what would have been his first playoff appearance. It turned out to be a 24-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Ponder was made inactive because of what he described as a deep contusion in his triceps, and the evidence of the bruising confirmed that diagnosis. He was listed on the injury report with an elbow injury after his arm hit the helmet of Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett in last Sunday’s regular-season finale while unloading a pass late in the second quarter. Ponder finished that game, but he said after Saturday’s loss that the velocity on his passes weren’t there in the second half of the regular-season finale.
He held out hope throughout the week that he could play, saying he made several throws a day during practices, but mostly was limited to handing off. The final decision on his status for Saturday wasn’t made until about two hours before the game.
“A little bit of pain, but I can play with pain. Just a loss of flexibility,” Ponder said after the Vikings were ousted from the playoffs with a 24-10 loss. “I couldn’t get the ball in position to where I could throw it normally and lost a lot of power and everything. It just wouldn’t have been wise to play.”
With Ponder inactive, Joe Webb struggled in his place, connecting on only 11 of 30 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“It’s about the team, and talking to Coach (Leslie) Frazier and talking to the trainers, it was definitely a better decision to have Joe out there,” Ponder said. “It took a lot to get here. It was frustrating to have to watch, but it was something that was out of my control.”
Ponder said he continued treatment throughout the week, including Friday night and Saturday and even threw passes in the pool at the team’s hotel on Saturday morning.
“(I) went out pregame, threw around a little bit. They just made the decision to play Joe with how limited I would be,” Ponder said.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Green Bay didn’t make many alterations to their defense when they saw Ponder was inactive.
“They did a good job of keeping it under wraps,” McCarthy said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I knew Joe Webb was going to play. That’s not the case. We didn’t adjust our game plan, so the players and coaches did a hell of a job.”
Frazier said Thursday he was optimistic Ponder would play, and Ponder thought that was a possibility all way until Saturday.
“It didn’t get worse. It got better. We were optimistic. Day by day it was getting better,” Ponder said. “We were optimistic that by game time it would be better. We were glad for the late game time (Saturday) night.”
His limited pregame warmup was the first public inclination that he really might not play, despite being listed as probable on the injury report.
“Velocity was one, but I just couldn’t get it in the right position to throw the ball. I couldn’t get the ball all the way up to my chest in a loaded position,” he said.
“It was tough. Obviously the whole team has been through a lot. For us to get the first playoff experience and everything, it was tough.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.