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“In my eyes, I’m getting prepared to play. As long as I play well, then I’m the one on the field,” he said.

Even Frazier acknowledged, though, the question about whether Ponder will play another game for the Vikings. He has one year remaining on his contract, calling for a base salary for 2014 of a little more than $1.76 million.

“On the surface, he’d question that. He’s human. I’m sure he has at times, but he just has to continue to work and work as hard as he can,” Frazier said. “And I think things will work out fine for Christian in the long term.”

Ponder was the 12th overall pick in the quarterback-deep 2011 draft, chosen ahead of Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick after Brett Favre retired for good and Tarvaris Jackson was let go.

Since handing Ponder the job six games into his rookie year, to replace an ineffective Donovan McNabb, the Vikings have given the Florida State grad every opportunity to develop into a franchise cornerstone.

“I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team. It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian’s a professional,” Frazier said. “He’s going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare, get back on the field and help our team win.”

Frazier spoke with Cassel and Ponder in the morning and said neither player expressed concern to him about Freeman’s arrival.

“One thing you can expect in the NFL: expect the unexpected,” Cassel said. “Because every week it changes. You never know what’s going to happen. I learned that over time. This is my ninth year now.”

This was the only definitive word from Frazier: there’s not enough time for Freeman to learn the offense and play against the Panthers.

The Vikings didn’t just sign him for depth, though. They’re trying to save the season after losing their first three games, and they also need someone to count on for the future.

Though Freeman agreed to a prorated $3 million deal for only the rest of the year, these next three months will be a feeling out process for both sides in advance of the free agent market.

“He’s a big quarterback with a strong arm that can do a lot of good things at all levels of the field,” Spielman said.

Ponder said he felt “very little pain, if any” while throwing in practice. He also said he’s not sure what to think about this latest bold move by Spielman.

“We’ll see what happens. It’s their decision, not my decision,” Ponder said. “Obviously I can control how I play.”

He produced some solid performances during a 10-6 season in 2012 that put the Vikings in the playoffs, but there were just as many ugly ones.

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