Christian Ponder plans to play more relaxed if he starts Sunday

Christian Ponder vows to be more relaxed if he's under center Sunday. (USATSI)

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder's stint on the bench could be a short one. Josh Freeman, who replaced him in the lineup two weeks after signing with the team, suffered a concussion in his debut Monday night. If he can't go against the Packers this week, Ponder will be under center.

And this time, Ponder, the team's 2011 first-round pick, plans to make the most of his second chance.

"I think it was good for me to kind of take a step back for a couple weeks and take a deep breath and learn from those first three games and get out there and play better," Ponder said, via the "I’m excited for this opportunity. What a great way to come back out against the Packers at home. It’ll be fun."

Ponder suffered a rib injury in Week 3 that sidelined him the following game. But he was a healthy scratch in Week 6, and by Week 7, Freeman had been named the starter.

"Apparently I was on a short leash before and I didn't know it," Ponder said of his benching, which everybody saw coming as soon as Freeman was signed.

"It couldn't get any worse than that," Ponder said of the demotion. "That's probably fair to say. I think I was playing with a lot of pressure on myself before and never felt in sync. Now is the opportunity to take that deep breath and go out and have fun again. I already got benched, so it can't get worse than that."

Going forward, Ponder plans to play more relaxed.

"I feel like I came out here running the scout team and stuff and practiced relaxed and then came out here running the first team and practiced relaxed, too," he said. "That’s going to be big for me.

"It's been an interesting ride. Obviously it swung away from me, it swings back and it's time to grab ahold of it and not let it swing away from me again. It's been obviously up and down. I think it's true to say that I was frustrated and down but I didn't let that effect me. I know this is an opportunity to step back and improve on some things and I did. It's got to translate out to the field though. I'm excited."

The reality is this: Unless there's a remarkable turnaround, Ponder's tenure in Minnesota is effectively over. The team wants to see what Freeman can do and whether he's worth re-signing in the offseason. If Freeman's not the answer, the Vikings will be eyeing their next franchise quarterback in April's draft.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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