Christian Ponder is seeing more of his fellow rookie quarterbacks make it into starting lineups around the NFL, but he's continuing to take a patient approach as he waits for his first regular-season snap with the Minnesota Vikings.
The latest to make the transition from early-round draft pick in April to starting quarterback in September is the Jacksonville Jaguars' Blaine Gabbert, who became friends with Ponder during their predraft preparations in Arizona earlier this year.
"My time will come at some point, whether it's next year or something happens at some point this year," Ponder said. "It's exciting to see those guys. We're buddies and we kind of all root for each other."
Ponder said he hasn't talked with Gabbert since Florida State's loss to Oklahoma over the weekend, but said he was excited for Gabbert's opportunity.
The Vikings rookie, 12th overall pick in the draft, hasn't gotten into either of the Vikings' first two regular-season games, both losses. Meanwhile, fans are getting impatient with the Vikings' 31st-ranked passing offense under Donovan McNabb. The troubles run deeper than McNabb, who has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 267 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 71.3 rating.
Ponder knows all about the heat that starting quarterbacks take from fans from his days at Florida State, and now he's fielding questions, at least occasionally, about when he'll make it into the Vikings' lineup.
"I've had people ask me if I'm going in, but … I've been there. I've been a starting quarterback and people blame me and they know that that's not the whole story," Ponder said. "I think people that understand the game really know that sometimes quarterbacks can make mistakes, but a lot of time you're depending on 10 other guys to help out and help you with your job. Otherwise, it's going to be hard to get it done."
McNabb's passing yards and passer rating are 30th in the league, ahead of only the Jaguars' Luke McCown and Kansas City's Matt Cassel. His 71.3 rating is also 30th.
The Bengals' Andy Dalton is eighth in passer rating at 105.7, completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 413 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton is the 16th-rated passer at 89.1, completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 854 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Only Tom Brady has more passing yards (940) than Newton, who also has 71 yards and two touchdowns rushing the ball.
With Gabbert, who got into Sunday's game and completed 5 of 6 passes, getting his chance this weekend, it leaves only Ponder and Tennessee's Jake Locker as first-round rookie quarterbacks who haven't been named starters and haven't played a regular-season down yet.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the coaching staff hasn't talked about getting Ponder any snaps because they are trying to correct other issues with the team. However, they can see him making some progress in practices.
"You can tell some things watching him in practice, whether or not he's making certain throws, how much he's paying attention in meetings," Frazier said. "We do things all along just to see and gauge guys where they are even though they may not be playing because they all know that maybe one injury and they'll be playing. We are always trying to ascertain where they are. We think Ponder is making progress. The ultimate test is, of course, when you get into a ball game."
For now, that isn't part of the plan, but Ponder is trying to learn his NFL lessons from the sidelines. He has seen the Vikings take double-digit halftime leads. He has also seen them squander each of those leads by scoring a combined three points in the second halves of those games.
"I think right now I'm just getting comfortable with everything that's going on, getting ready for this whole transition," Ponder said. "The biggest thing I've learned is in an NFL game you've got to play four quarters. You can't slack off at all, otherwise it will come back and bite you in the butt. Right now, I think the biggest thing I'm learning is how Donovan is handling it. He's handling it really well. He's really picked up his leadership this week and he's making sure it's not happening again. He's handling adversity really well."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Ponder remains patient for his opportunity
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