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Friday, October 21, 2011
PonderWatch: Debuting against the champs

By Kevin Seifert

There has been considerable debate this week about whether the Minnesota Vikings could have, or should have, waited to find a less formidable opponent than the defending Super Bowl champions for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder's first NFL start.

My take: Ponder was the No. 12 overall pick of the draft and a player the Vikings are counting on to lead them for a decade or longer. There should be no concern about protecting him from fierce opponents, now or ever. If they were afraid to play Ponder against the archrival Green Bay Packers, I would be concerned for both his and their future.

With that said, it's fair to point out that only five rookie quarterbacks in NFL history have made their first start against the defending NFL champion. As the chart below shows, the Arizona Cardinals' Max Hall was the only such rookie to win that start.

It's interesting to note that former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer is on the list as well. Kramer and Ponder are two of only three quarterbacks the Vikings have drafted in the first round. (Daunte Culpepper in 1999 was the other.) That two of them will have made their first start against the defending champions is interesting to me, if not to anyone else.

Regardless, Ponder will step on the field Sunday in front of a fan base that couldn't have higher expectations for him. Nothing like starting off in the pressure cooker, huh?

"I don't think anyone's expectations have been higher than what I put on myself," he said. "I have high expectations for myself, and I prepare myself for success. When things don't go my way, I make sure that they do. I am a perfectionist, and I am going to do everything I can and reach my expectations."