Packers-Vikings News: Viking teammates back Ponder, Packers' So'oto looks to get more playing timeRegional Sports
-- Green Bay linebacker Vic So'oto looks to get more playing time while Christian Ponder's Minnesota Vikings teammates are behind as he prepares for his first NFL start.
Some players on the Vikings’ offense are giving public votes of confidence to their new quarterback, Christian Ponder. The first-round rookie from Florida State was named the Vikings’ starter yesterday for the remainder of the season, starting with Sunday’s game against the Packers at the Metrodome.
Receiver Michael Jenkins says the 23-year-old Ponder is not shy about taking command of the Minnesota offense – and Jenkins believes he’ll do well. Packers’ safety Morgan Burnett, who played in two games against Ponder in college, called the QB an extremely athletic player with intelligence, a strong arm, and great footwork for scrambling. Ponder says he hopes to building on the experience he had last Sunday night, when he threw for 99 yards in relief of Donovan McNabb in the Vikes’ loss at Chicago.
Green Bay Packers’ rookie linebacker Vic So’oto could get some major playing time on Sunday at Minnesota. Outside linebackers Frank Zombo and Jamari Lattimore are expected to miss the game due to injuries. And that could put So’oto on the active roster for just the second time in the regular season. So’oto became a fan favorite in August when he intercepted a pass for a touchdown and had one-and-a-half sacks in an exhibition game against Kansas City. But he suffered a back injury before the regular season opener a month-and-a-half ago – and he’s been struggling to return ever since. With Zombo gone, Erik Walden is expected to resume his full-time spot at outside linebacker – but So’oto could get some plays on passing downs. He’ll also see action on special teams. Meanwhile, inside linebacker Clay Matthews and corner Charles Woodson took part in almost all of yesterday’s practice. Both have been sitting out practices, while playing in the games through injuries – a quadriceps injury for Matthews, and lingering foot-and-knee pains for Woodson.
Former Packers’ kicker Ryan Longwell of Minnesota says he’s not over-analyzing field goal attempts that he missed in his last two games. But he’s not brushing them off, either. Longwell – one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL – missed a 43-yard field goal October ninth at home against Arizona. And he missed a 38-yarder in a swirling wind last Sunday night at Chicago. Neither kick had an effect on who won – but Longwell said it’s still no fun to get into a slump. He says there’s something to be learned from every kick, and he’s learned a lot over the last two weeks. Longwell, a 15-year veteran, made all but two of his 28 field goal attempts for the Vikings in 2009 – and all but one of his 18 attempts last year. He was 8-for-8 this season until his two misses. At Chicago, Longwell said his rhythm was off. But Minnesota special teams’ coach Mike Priefer says he’s not too concerned for now. Longwell is Green Bay’s all-time leading scorer in his nine years with the Packers – and since 2009, his field goal percentage is second in the league behind Neil Rackers of Houston. Longwell will be back home against Green Bay on Sunday.
Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews has been fined $5,000 by the NFL for violating the league’s dress code. He wore bright yellow shoes during last Sunday’s home win over the Saint Louis Rams. The Packers wore their 1929 throwback uniforms with navy blue jerseys, tan pants, and dark shoes. Corner Tramon Williams was also fined for wearing yellow shoes. Matthews disclosed his fine in an interview with teammate Josh Sitton for ESPN’s “Rome is Burning” show.
Gale Gillingham, one of the best-known guards in Packers’ history, died yesterday. The 67-year-old Gillingham was lifting weights at his home in Little Falls, Minnesota when he collapsed. Packers’ broadcaster and former center Larry McCarren said Gillingham was the best offensive lineman he’s ever seen, “bar none.” He was inducted into the Packers’ Hall-of-Fame in 1982 – and McCarren said he should have been in the national hall but he wouldn’t play what he called “the political media game” to get in. Gillingham was a first-round draft choice for the Packers in 1966 out of Minnesota. He replaced Fuzzy Thurston at left guard in 1967, and played in 128 career games before retiring in ’76. Gillingham was also a five-time Pro Bowler.
Green Bay Packers’ right guard Josh Sitton returned to practice yesterday after he missed yesterday’s workout with a knee injury. Also, linebacker Clay Matthews and corner Charles Woodson were in full pads, and both took part in their first Thursday practice since September 14th. Neither Matthews nor Woodson has practiced a lot since then – but they’ve played in all the games. Matthews is getting over a quadriceps injury, and he says he’s close to being at 100-percent for the first time since he was hurt. Woodson was limited, but he also worked out a bit yesterday. He’s had lingering foot-and-knee problems. Tackle Chad Clifton and linebacker Frank Zombo have both been declared out for Sunday’s game at Minnesota.