When Ponder was looking for a house in Minnesota last summer, he stayed with Rudolph. This summer, the two have been spending a lot of time golfing and boating together with a group of friends.
On the field, that close relationship translated at the start of training camp. In the first practice of camp last Friday, eight of Ponder's 17 targets in 11-on-11 drills went to Rudolph. That continued this week, as Rudolph was a beneficiary of a Ponder touchdown pass in full-team work.
While Percy Harvin wasn't targeted as often early in training camp, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said some of that has to do with the plays that are being installed.
"We have some specific plays where we'll want him to target Percy. We'll get to that, but we haven't gotten to that yet," Frazier said. "Right now, some of the things that he does, he has an option. He definitely likes the tight ends. There's no question about it. He has a strong affinity for Kyle in particular and that's not all bad. But he knows he has to go through his full reads and not get locked in on the tight ends because defenses will take advantage of that."
Harvin started to become more involved on Tuesday and didn't seem concerned.
"I think the whole offense, we're getting settled in. I think the coaches are getting familiar with people's strengths," he said. "I think we're all just getting settled with the offense. The more we'll rep it the better we'll be."
One difference this year is that returning players are more familiar with the offense, Harvin said. Last year, the lockout of players ended when the NFL and the players union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement just days before the start of training camp. With a new offensive coordinator (Bill Musgrave) and new scheme, it didn't matter if players were returning veterans or incoming rookies – the offense was new to all of them.
"I think last year when he got here we were just repping the offense instead of really knowing it and just pretty much reviewing and adding wrinkles to what we already knew," he said.
While Harvin returns to a familiar offense this year, he indicated he could begin to see more action in the backfield, as well. The Vikings don't know how many carries Adrian Peterson will be able to handle by the season opener on Sept. 9. Toby Gerhart would be the starter if Peterson isn't ready to handle the majority of snaps, but Harvin, who rushed a career-high 52 times for 345 yards (6.6-yard average) last year, could see even more carries at the beginning of this season.
"We talked about it a little bit. The coaches, we've been going over my footsteps here and there," Harvin. "He said to expect some handoffs and be ready for them. So as training camp goes on, we'll see."
So far, that hasn't been part of the training camp routine, but it likely will be part of the practice regimen as the regular season approaches.
WILF HAS CHAMPIONSHIP EXPECTATIONS
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, in Mankato for the annual owner's retreat during training camp, bucked the low expectations for the Vikings handed out by most in the media and those in Las Vegas after the team's 3-13 record in 2011.
"I expect to be division champs. I want to be able to fight for the division as we always do every year, and get better for years to come," Wilf said. "That's always been our goal. That's been the goal since the first day I came here.
"We have a lot of veterans on board that are going to have to teach the younger guys on the team. I don't know if you want to call it rebuilding or whatever, but we are certainly going to be improving."
Las Vegas bookmaker Bovada.lv put the over-under on Vikings wins at 5½. While Wilf is certainly expecting more than that, he also understands that he may need to be patient with such a young team.
"Absolutely. I mean, things don't happen overnight. There will be the ups and downs as we certainly have had them in the last seven years of ownership, but you have to be patient," Wilf said. "As we were patient with the stadium, we are going to be patient and we are going to work hard to getting a championship ball club."
Wilf pointed to a "full" draft class this year – the Vikings had 10 picks – and believes they can mix with the "star veterans" to "make us a much better team."
Wilf said he isn't setting any win total for Frazier to keep his job, but wants to see him be competitive, expects a "winning season" and for the Vikings to challenge for the NFC North title.
WINFIELD ON A ‘PITCH COUNT'
At 35 years old and in his 14th NFL season, Antoine Winfield has said he is willing to accept a reduced role in 2012 and defensive coordinator Alan Williams said the team will be monitoring his reps this season.
"Antoine is a technician and the body is not going to stay young forever, so he can rely on his years of experience to play and play well and we realize that there are only so many reps that a body has so we want to be smart about how we use him, about how we play him," Williams said.
"Some of that is going to be how fast some of our younger guys or some of the guys that we brought in come up to speed. That's yet to be determined, but we do know that he's going to be on a pitch count. What that pitch count is, I don't know yet.
While Williams is well aware of Winfield's age, he said so far Winfield hasn't showed the signs of it.
"You have to go check with him to see if he's aware that he's getting older because I looked at (Monday's) practice and there's nothing that says he is slowing down or wearing down or whatever verbiage you want to use with that," Williams said.
CARLSON SUFFERS SPRAINED KNEE
Vikings tight end John Carlson hurt his knee in Tuesday afternoon's training camp practice, with the initial diagnosis being a sprained MCL. An MRI was expected to be performed Tuesday evening.
Frazier said nothing was torn, but depending on the severity of the sprain, Carlson could be sidelined for a few weeks of practice. No surgery is expected.
"It heals by itself so it's a little bit more of a pain-tolerance thing, depending on how he feels," Frazier said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.