Christian Ponder Insists Relationship Isn't Affecting Vikings' Play

The Minnesota Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder is taking some harsh criticism directed towards his relationship with a popular ESPN football reporter.

The Vikings looked very impressive during the start of the season with some analysts saying they have the potential to reach the Super Bowl, but after inconsistent and sloppy play coupled with two straight losses, the Vikings now find themselves 5-4 and in danger of falling out of playoff contention.

Ponder recently conducted an interview with Paul Allen on KFAN in Minneapolis and discussed not only his motivations as a professional football player and commitment to the Vikings, but also of his current high-profile relationship with prominent ESPN NFL sideline reporter Samantha Steele.

When asked about his relationship with Steele, Ponder insisted that his relationship had nothing to do with the Vikings recent troubles. He stated that the Vikings had been playing well overall, but have played some really tough opponents and have come up a bit short in those games.

"She has nothing to do with it. We've been dating since the beginning of the season, so she had also to do with the five wins. So it has really nothing to do with anything on the football field," he explained.

Ponder went on to explain that he is not feeling the outside pressure because he is used to setting high expectations while not focusing too much on the amount of pressure he places on himself.

"No, no. I put a lot of pressure on myself but I think I've grown used to dealing with that pressure so … I don't think it's too much. I don't think it's something that negatively affects me," Ponder said.

The Vikings are currently third in their division in the NFC North. They have enjoyed a solid 4-1 record at home, but have been less fortunate with a 1-3 record when traveling on the road.