Nov. 8, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Turning the page following a second consecutive last-second defeat, the Florida State football team returned to the practice field Monday to begin preparation for Saturday’s home game against Clemson.
The Seminoles practiced without starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who underwent a procedure to drain fluid from his right elbow, which has been swollen since he ruptured the bursa sac against Boston College on Oct. 16.
“They drained fluid off and he’ll be day-to-day,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of Ponder’s status. “We may rest him for a day or so. … I doubt if he’ll practice tomorrow. We’ll go day-to-day.”
Ponder has had his elbow drained once before, and has followed that up with two of his better games of the season in the losses to NC State and North Carolina. In the two defeats he has completed 41 of 62 attempts (.661) for 460 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He’s also rushed for two scores.
Fisher said he didn’t realize that Ponder’s elbow was bothering him until Sunday.
“He said he got hit on it and he didn’t tell anybody,” Fisher said. “He just played the game. It didn’t look like it (bothered him) one bit. It’s an amazing thing.”
Ponder’s toughness and resiliency is one reason no one is willing to rule him out for Saturday’s pivotal ACC Atlantic Division game against the Tigers (8 p.m., ABC).
“Knowing him, he could come out here in practice and do it,” Fisher said. “It would not shock me to see him at practice tomorrow. It would not shock me if I held him out of practice tomorrow. We’ll see.”
In Ponder’s absence, redshirt sophomore quarterback EJ Manuel handled all of the snaps with the first-team offense and drew praise from Fisher. Manuel is hardly a novice, boasting a 3-1 record as a starter and earning Gator Bowl MVP honors after Ponder suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last season.
Florida State is the only Football Championship Subdivision team in the nation with the luxury of having two quarterbacks who have started and led their team to bowl victories.
Manuel said his focus this week is preparing himself mentally to play against the Tigers. He said Fisher has told him to just prepare himself like it’s any other week.
“You definitely have to watch a lot more film,” Manuel said, following Monday’s practice. “I’ll probably go up some time and meet with Jimbo and coach (Dameyune) Craig to talk some things over. … The main thing is preparation.”
“I don’t think it’s tougher. The best thing to do is act like you’re going to play on Saturday. If he’s back, that’s great. If he’s not back … we’ll still go out there and have a good day as an offense.”
Manuel, however, knows that Ponder will do everything in his power to be back on the field. He’s had a first-hand look at how the fifth-year senior has played through injuries over the past three seasons.
“He’ll recoup pretty fast,” Manuel said. “(Ponder’s elbow) always looks kind of swollen since it happened. I still think he threw the ball really well. The long ball he threw to Bert (Reed) – when they called him out of bounds – I knew nothing was wrong with him then, but it was still swollen up like Popeye.”
“He’s still getting it done. He’s a tough guy. Actually he took a blow to the head … Saturday and I thought he was done then, but he got right back up. Nobody can challenge his toughness. He’s done this for three years now and he’s really a tough guy.”
If Manuel’s number is called, he said he will be much better prepared than he was a year ago when Ponder went down for the season in the fourth quarter at Clemson.
“It’s a lot different because it’s more fun now,” Manuel said. “I’m not uncertain about what I’m going to do if I go in.”
“EJ will be ready to play,” Fisher said.
Of course, FSU’s coach feels the same way about his team based on what he has seen from them this season, including during Monday’s practice.
Fisher described the practice effort as “workmanlike.”
“It wasn’t down, it wasn’t rah-rah,” he added. “It wasn’t sluggish. They came out and did their work.
“I like the character of this football team. I really do. I like the character of how they go about their business. They’re very stand-up guys.”