Christian Ponder has been doing just about everything he can under the duress of the nearly five-month-long lockout, but the stark reality of his situation is that there is only so much Ponder could do.
He wasn't able to work with coaches – or at least current NFL coaches – and the Vikings' most talented wide receivers the last two years, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, never did show up at workouts at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. That was yet another setback, although likely a more minor one, that Ponder couldn't control. He extended the invitation, one that went unanswered.
The fact that Rice didn't show up there or in Minneapolis for workouts the last few weeks may or may not indicate the former Pro Bowler's willingness to re-sign with the Vikings. With Harvin, who knows his reasons? What is clear is that the Vikings would be better off if Rice returns and Ponder has two extremely talented receivers to target.
With the lockout, Ponder wasn't even able to access film of them to study since the quarterback was drafted in late April.
"Obviously you hear big names like Sidney and Percy and all those guys. You know the big-name guys and what they bring to the table," Ponder said. "You'd always want to have a big receiver on your side."
Ponder said he talked with Rice earlier this year, before the IMG workouts in late May, but hasn't had "too many conversations" with him.
"Hopefully he comes back [to the Vikings]," Ponder said. "It would be nice for me. And, if not, obviously we've got a lot of good guys and would probably bring in someone else as well."
Ponder said he thought it would only take two or three days of training camp for him to get the timing down with Harvin and Rice (if Rice is still in purple).
In the three months since Ponder was drafted, he has worked out in Florida, been to Minnesota at least twice, including his current workouts at Larry Fitzgerald's conditioning camp at the University of Minnesota, but what he really wants – and definitely needs – now is the ability to study the offense with his new coordinator.
Ponder can study the playbook he received during a brief lockout reprieve in April all he wants. He can work with quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke at IMG whenever he wants. Ultimately, though, Ponder needs what he's been missing out on all offseason – learning exactly what Musgrave wants, getting down the timing with the receivers he will be throwing to this fall and winter, and standing in the face of a pass rush while going through his progressions.
To date, he has had none of that.
"The good thing here is we get a decent amount of throws, but we're not throwing too many. … Nothing too crazy, but it's been good work," he said of Fitzgerald's camp, where players go through intense conditioning for about an hour and then quarterbacks and receivers go through passing and route-running drills.
He had a few days with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe at IMG and at the University of Minnesota. He had a few weeks with rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph and receivers Greg Camarillo and Emmanuel Arceneaux.
"We've had a couple opportunities – down at IMG and now up here," Rudolph said last week. "… It's awesome to get a little bit of work in before we actually report."
Ponder is doing the right things by taking the initiative to work out, but until he gets on the field with a full offense and denfensive linemen rushing at him, it's all just speculation how good he can be or how ready he will be for the quickly approaching season opener.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Sunday Slant: The Ponder predicament
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