WATFORD, England — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder expects to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in London despite a rib injury.
Ponder, injured early in last Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns, emerged from the Vikings first practice in the U.K. on Wednesday confident that he will play at Wembley Stadium.
“It’s a little sore and it’s going to be something I will have to work through but I threw more than I thought I would be able to,” Ponder said. “We’ll wait to see how this week plays out, but my expectation and my hope is that I will be playing.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday’s practice would “be a big signal in what direction we’ll have to go,” with a decision expected by Friday.
Backup quarterback Matt Cassell also took snaps on Wednesday, and he is ready to step in if Ponder is unavailable to play.
Ponder has been under pressure since the loss to the Browns dropped the Vikings to 0-3. The third-year quarterback has thrown five interceptions and two touchdowns for a 65.9 passing rating, and has also lost two fumbles.
“My confidence hasn’t wavered,” said Ponder, who led the Vikings to the playoffs last season. “I have a great support staff around me with Adrian Peterson and the staff around me.”
Peterson said he was always ready to give Ponder a pep talk, as he did when fans at Mall of America Field began jeering the quarterback during the Cleveland loss.
“He’s bouncing back,” the Vikings running back said. “I told him, ‘You know the business. You know how it goes. Just stay focused and continue to work. You know what to do.”‘
Frazier said defensive backs Chris Cook (groin) and A.J. Jefferson (ankle) would sit out Wednesday’s practice, but safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) would take part. Fullback Jerome Felton also is returning from a three-game suspension to provide an extra blocker in the Vikings backfield.
The Steelers are also 0-3 going into the first of two NFL International Series games to be played in London this season.