Sunday Slant: Natural-born leader?

Christian Ponder continues to tilt the court of public opinion in his favor with his off-the-field moves. The real test will come when the season starts, but for now he's doing all he can to win over teammates and Vikings fans.

Vikings fans can only hope that Christian Ponder's on-field acumen is as good as his early off-the-field activities.

Ponder's natural feel for relating to people seems to be turning doubters and detractors into believers about the possibilities. Oftentimes, that's the way it works with the initial unknowns – the more you find out, the more you just might like.

With the assumption that Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert would be gone in the first seven picks of April's draft, fans spent so much time considering Jake Locker and even Ryan Mallett for the Vikings that Ponder wasn't a consideration for most Vikings pundits in the first round. But as more information comes forward – about Ponder and about other teams' intentions in the middle of the first round – the selection seems to be getting better all the time.

His ability to connect with people is a strong start, and it's not just football players and athletes. The Vikings found out that two of Ponder's closest friends at Florida State had nothing to do with the football team – one worked for the attorney general in Florida and other was an aide to a senator.

That ability to relate to several different social groups has Ponder spearheading workouts in Florida this week, which will be begin the true measure of the man in the eyes of fans who were cooler than early-spring Minnesota waters about his selection at No. 12 overall. His communication skills are getting teammates he has never met in person to come to Florida for a few days, and it will be an important start to building chemistry on the field. The former Seminole will be throwing to a former Gator (Percy Harvin), Gamecock (Sidney Rice), Irish (Kyle Rudolph) and Terrapin (Visanthe Shiancoe), among others. They will work on timing and plays from coordinator Bill Musgrave's playbook, but most importantly they will be starting the process of building harmony among young skill-position players that could be the present and future of the franchise.

In lockout times, when there is little other evidence by which to judge him, Ponder is doing all he can to turn the skeptics in supporters. In the course of about a month, his selection has gone from generating boos to being about the only positive purple news around.

QUICK SLANTS

The mysterious meeting: The St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was spotted having a meeting with an executive from AEG, the entertainment group that is spearheading an NFL stadium development in downtown Los Angeles. The Vikings clarified that the meeting wasn't about moving the team to Los Angeles, but rather about developing an entertainment district surrounding the team's proposed stadium in Arden Hills.

Either way, I say it's good for the Vikings to apply a little pressure – perceived, paranoid or otherwise – although it may be a risky move with this legislative special session still in the balance. The reality of the situation is that the Vikings won't reside in the Metrodome forever. They have said they won't sign another long-term lease there, and with their current lease expiring after the 2011 season, they are only interested in staying there while a new stadium is being constructed elsewhere.

The Wilf-AEG meeting could have been as innocent as the Vikings say, but more frontal threats may be necessary – even likely – if the stadium situation isn't solved in this year's special session.

Now you love ‘em?: It's time for the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul to tape their mouths shut regarding the stadium situation until the special session is finished. Since they failed to do anything in a timely manner over the last several years, they failed in the first part of the "put up or shut up" axiom. And it's looking like they are botching second part as well. Are the last-minute (Minneapolis) and much-too-late (St. Paul) proposals brought by each mayor attempts to undermine the progress the Vikings made with Ramsey County? That sounds about right from this vantage point.

Both cities had ample opportunity to work with the Vikings on a solution. Minneapolis had a meeting with the Vikings about 10 days before the session ended, didn't get their backing on a partnership and still went public with a proposal that seemed to target property owners in Minneapolis and the Timberwolves with different elements regarding the Target Center rather than focusing on the Vikings' issues. The mayors failed to get a timely, realistic deal when they had the chance. Maybe they'll get another opportunity to revisit it, but for now it's time to step aside and let Ramsey County's proposal take its course without another divisive influence.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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The Vikings found out that two of Ponder's closest friends at Florida State had nothing to do with the football team – one worked for the attorney general in Florida and other was an aide to a senator. That ability to relate to several different social groups has Ponder spearheading workouts in Florida this week, which will be begin the true measure of the man in the eyes of fans who were cooler than early-spring Minnesota waters about his selection at No. 12 overall. His communication skills are getting teammates he has never met in person to come to Florida for a few days, and it will be an important start to building chemistry on the field. The former Seminole will be throwing to a former Gator (Percy Harvin), Gamecock (Sidney Rice), Irish (Kyle Rudolph) and Terrapin (Visanthe Shiancoe), among others. They will work on timing and plays from coordinator Bill Musgrave's playbook, but most importantly they will be starting the process of building harmony among young skill-position players that could be the present and future of the franchise. In lockout times, when there is little other evidence by which to judge him, Ponder is doing all he can to turn the skeptics in supporters. In the course of about a month, his selection has gone from generating boos to being about the only positive purple news around. The first reported that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was spotted having a meeting with an executive from AEG, the entertainment group that is spearheading an NFL stadium development in downtown Los Angeles. The Vikings clarified that the meeting wasn't about moving the team to Los Angeles, but rather about developing an entertainment district surrounding the team's proposed stadium in Arden Hills. Either way, I say it's good for the Vikings to apply a little pressure – perceived, paranoid or otherwise – although it may be a risky move with this legislative special session still in the balance. The reality of the situation is that the Vikings won't reside in the Metrodome forever. They have said they won't sign another long-term lease there, and with their current lease expiring after the 2011 season, they are only interested in staying there while a new stadium is being constructed elsewhere. The Wilf-AEG meeting could have been as innocent as the Vikings say, but more frontal threats may be necessary – even likely – if the stadium situation isn't solved in this year's special session. It's time for the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul to tape their mouths shut regarding the stadium situation until the special session is finished. Since they failed to do anything in a timely manner over the last several years, they failed in the first part of the \"put up or shut up\" axiom. And it's looking like they are botching second part as well. Are the last-minute (Minneapolis) and much-too-late (St. Paul) proposals brought by each mayor attempts to undermine the progress the Vikings made with Ramsey County? That sounds about right from this vantage point. Both cities had ample opportunity to work with the Vikings on a solution. Minneapolis had a meeting with the Vikings about 10 days before the session ended, didn't get their backing on a partnership and still went public with a proposal that seemed to target property owners in Minneapolis and the Timberwolves with different elements regarding the Target Center rather than focusing on the Vikings' issues. The mayors failed to get a timely, realistic deal when they had the chance. Maybe they'll get another opportunity to revisit it, but for now it's time to step aside and let Ramsey County's proposal take its course without another divisive influence. 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