From Comcast SportsNetEDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Christian Ponder says he's excited and grateful for the opportunity to take over as quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. The rookie says he will also be leaning heavily on veteran Donovan McNabb for help. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier officially announced on Wednesday that Ponder is the starting quarterback going forward. Frazier says the decision was based solely on what gives the team the best chance to win. McNabb will remain on the team as the backup, and Frazier says he handled the demotion professionally and pledged to help Ponder succeed. Ponder was drafted with the 12th overall pick in April. He made his NFL debut in the fourth quarter last week against Chicago and will make his first start on Sunday at home against Green Bay.
STANFORD – Coach Kyle Shanahan remained in the Bay Area while a contingent of 49ers hit the road this week to scout quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer.
On Thursday, general manager John Lynch, personnel executives Adam Peters and Martin Mayhew, and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello watched Notre Dame’s pro day, Shanahan remained close to home to watch Stanford prospects.
“We live right next door, so it’s easy to drive over and see it and I can go right back to the office,” Shanahan said. “They went out three days ago. So they have a whole week on the road and it’s been better for me to stay in the office with the film and get our coaching staff ready. In two weeks our players get here, so we got a lot to do.”
The 49ers’ offseason program can begin on April 3, but Shanahan has opted to spend another week preparing for the arrival of his veteran players.
Among the veterans who will be reporting for the offseason program are quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. The 49ers have not shown any interest in re-signing Colin Kaepernick.
“We’re pretty comfortable right now with the options that we’ve had and are available, but we never stop looking,” Shanahan said. “Every day something could pop up and you never know, so I’ll never tell you guys that we’re fully done because you never are.”
Lynch led the 49ers’ scouting effort this week to North Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. Shanahan, who will likely determine the direction the 49ers take at quarterback in the draft, said he will have plenty of time to evaluate the prospects up close.
“We haven’t mapped them all yet, but I’m sure I’ll do a couple private workouts, whether it’s me or our quarterbacks coach,” Shanahan said. “But one of us will do it – kind of spread us out a little bit.
“Most of the pro days, we get most of those videos anyway, so there are a few guys will have private workouts for, not just quarterbacks but other positions, too. Some guys you don’t have to do it with.”
The two headliners at Stanford’s pro day were defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and running back Christian McCaffrey. Thomas appears to be a strong candidate for the 49ers if they hold onto the No. 2 overall pick.
DALLAS – Brent Burns hasn’t altered his routine, despite his name not showing up on the scoresheet for a little while.
“It’s not like I stopped eating the same meal or I’m not sleeping anymore,” Burns said on Thursday, after a rare Sharks road practice. “It’s the same. I do the same thing every game.”
What he hasn’t been doing every game, like he seemed to be for the first three-quarters of the season, is racking up points. The Norris Trophy frontrunner hasn’t potted a goal in his last 14 games, and is scoreless in his last seven. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, and has four more points than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen, but there’s no denying he’s hit a cold streak. Previously, he hadn't gone more than three games without a point.
He’s not the only one, of course, as the Sharks have managed just four goals in their last four games, all regulation losses. But when a team is struggling to put the puck in the net, it’s often the top guys that have to lead the resurgence. And no one has been better or more important to the Sharks this season than the 32-year-old blueliner.
Could it be that as Burns goes, so do the Sharks? The team is 33-9-3 when Burns finds the scoresheet, and just 9-15-4 when he doesn't.
Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t think so, though, pointing to the Sharks putting up plenty of offense at the start of Burns’ dry spell, including nine combined goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo last week.
“I don’t think we only score when Brent Burns is on. I think we’re deeper than that. I think we’ve shown that,” DeBoer said. “He hasn’t scored in awhile, and up until a few games ago we were putting up some significant goals and numbers and offense.
“I think even the nights he’s not scoring, we’ve generated lots of chances. Other than the St. Louis game (a 4-1 loss on March 16), the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve generated enough chances that on a lot of nights that’s three or four goals. But, that’s not just [on] Burnzie…It’s some other guys bearing down and sticking it in the net. It will come.”
Joe Thornton believes that the forwards can also do more to help Burns, who has become the team’s most valuable offensive weapon with his ability to get shots or passes through from a distance with velocity and precision like few players in the NHL can.
“He’s obviously a dominant player, and I think we just need to help him out,” Thornton said. “It shouldn’t always be on one guy, I think we’ve got to give him better opportunities to put him in better spots. It shouldn’t all lay on his shoulders. We’re not doing a good enough job to kind of work away from him, and getting him opportunities.”
Burns, of course, is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. During practice, his hooting and hollering can typically be heard echoing throughout the rink. Simply put, no one has more fun than this guy.
So, is the cold streak weighing on him? Maybe a little bit.
“I think it weighs on him, for sure,” DeBoer said. “We have good dialogue, there’s a lot of communication, especially with him and [assistant coach Bob Boughner]. And also, him and his teammates. The guys know how much responsibility he takes on himself – sometimes too much. Guys are good with that, they recognize that.”
Thornton said: “When you’re a d-man and you get so many goals and so many assists, you kind of expect it’s going to happen every night, but that’s just not the reality of it. He’s doing something that hardly [any] d-men do in the history of the game. … He’s capable of just getting out of that quick, and pouring it on like he has in the first 65 games of the year.”
For now, Burns is taking every new day and new game as it comes, and said: “It’s no different if you’ve won four in a row and you’ve got 10 points.”
And if he did have 10 points in his last four games?
“You want 12. If you’ve got zero, you want one. Then 12,” he said.