Second-year Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is becoming a more vocal leader of the Minnesota offense, at least in the eyes of veteran defensive end Jared Allen. As reported by ESPN Radio 1500, Allen says Ponder has embraced his role as a team leader:
"I think the biggest thing that he has done is he has kind of put himself towards the front of our team," Allen said. "Even in the beginning of the year when he was having success, he wasn't a vocal leader on the team. As far as the last few games, he has kind of brought the team up right before we break down, not a whole lot has to be said, but hearing your quarterback's voice, knowing that when he is pumped up, it gives you confidence that 'OK, the head of our offense, he is ready to go.'
"When I played with Trent Green (in Kansas City), you knew that the team was his, you knew that the offense was his. That is what Christian has done these last three, four weeks, he has really put himself more in front of the team in saying, 'Listen let's go, it's time to play,' and letting people hear his voice.
Ponder's apparent leadership improvement coincided with a four-game winning streak that took the Vikings to the NFC's second wild card berth. The second-year quarterback has struggled at times in his second season with the Vikings, but surprised some fans with an excellent performance in last week's must-win season finale against Green Bay. Despite averaging just 136.9 passing yards per game with five interceptions in his last seven games, he completed 16 of 28 pass attempts for 234 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Packers Sunday.
Ponder will make his playoff debut Saturday at Green Bay's Lambeau Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT, with television coverage on NBC.