Now that Christian Ponder has had nearly three months looking over the Vikings playbook and putting it into action during workouts away from the coaching staff, the rookie first-round pick believes he can push for the starting job.
"I think so, that's what I'm pushing for. That's what I'm hoping for. So we'll see what happens," Ponder said Monday in between sessions working out at the University of Minnesota campus at conditioning sessions arranged by Larry Fitzgerald.
Ponder was joined by fellow rookie Kyle Rudolph, a second-round tight end that should see a lot of action this year, as the incoming rookies to Fitzgerald's camp. Receiver Jaymar Johnson and former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson have been taking advantage of the group workout opportunities for months and weeks, respectively, having gotten experience in them the last few summers.
Last week, Ponder got in a few workouts with offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan and others, but attending Fitzgerald's supervised workouts gives him a little more supervision with conditioning experts and there is even a receivers coach available. It also provides an opportunity to throw to NFL-quality receivers.
"It's great. They're pushing each other," Ponder said of the other players. "It's good to get to know those guys."
Vikings linebacker Jasper Brinkley was part of the workouts last week, as well, and defensive end Brian Robison joined the group of about three dozen players (most of them not Vikings) on Monday.
For Ponder, however, the most important part of his offseason preparation is learning the playbook. He received the Bill Musgrave offensive plan during the one-day reprieve from the lockout after he was drafted and has been spending time learning it under the mentoring of Chris Weinke at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Ponder ran a similar offense at Florida State and has maintained a familiarity with it at each step of the learning process over the last three months.
"I know it pretty well. I'm pretty comfortable going into this thing," he said.
"It's pretty similar [to the Florida State playbook]. I'm comfortable with everything. It's a lot of the same stuff we did before, just different terminology, different vocab, but I feel good with it."
The common thinking is that the longer the NFL lockout of players lasts, the bigger advantage a veteran free-agent quarterback could have in competing for the starting job in Minnesota. An alternate theory, however, is that Ponder has already had three months getting familiar with Musgrave's new playbook and, despite a lack of experience diagnosing NFL defenses, his jump start on the scheme could give him an advantage over a veteran.
"I would hope. I've gotten it way before they would if they brought in a veteran," Ponder said. "I'm hoping."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Ponder pushing for Vikings' starting spot
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