Christian Ponder has a couple new toys at wide receiver. One is from the draft, a raw prospect whose history hasn't been written yet. The other is from free agency, an established veteran who is hoping there are a few more good chapters left to write in his biography.
Cordarrelle Patterson will get his first work in a Minnesota Vikings uniform this weekend at the team's rookie minicamp, but Ponder has already been getting in his work with Greg Jennings, the veteran of nine NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
After considering offers from the Packers and Vikings, Jennings settled on moving across the border when he agreed to a five-year, $45 million contract that included a $10 million signing bonus and $17.8 million guaranteed with the Vikings.
So after spending a week working with Jennings at the team's offseason conditioning program and during side sessions, what do his new teammates think of Jennings?
"Phenomenal. He's a great addition to our team, not only on the field but also in the locker room," said tight end Kyle Rudolph. "He brings a huge leadership role to our young wide receiver room. He's just a phenomenal person as well as a great player."
In his first six seasons with the Packers, Jennings never had fewer than 11 starts or 45 catches – both of those low marks came in his rookie season of 2006. He had three consecutive seasons (2008-10) with at least 68 catches and 1,100 yards.
With the Vikings shipping their most productive receiver of the last few years, Percy Harvin, to the Seattle Seaahawks in an offseason trade, Jennings steps in with more experience and the backing of those 1,000-yard seasons. His refined approach showed early.
"I thought even the first day, he runs very crisp routes. You know where he's going to be. He's not really a guy that you have to learn," Ponder said. "He's got a longer stride, but very consistent in what he does. I don't think it's going to take very long to establish that chemistry."
Ponder said Jennings was part of the first full week of offseason training already last week. They continued their training with throwing sessions after the conditioning workouts.
While Jennings doesn't possess quite the versatility that Harvin did as player that would routinely return kickoffs and take carries out of the backfield, Jennings is able to play a variety of receiver positions.
"I think he can play pretty much any position he wants, whether it's inside or outside," Ponder said. "He has the speed to get down the field outside. I threw a couple go balls to him, so he can run a go route. Obviously he's done a lot on the inside at Green Bay and he'll do the same here probably."
But one of the big expected benefits of adding Jennings might not be quantifiable in the statistics. In addition to his work that will be obvious on the field, players anticipate that he will be a welcome veteran addition to help both receivers and quarterbacks on the sidelines, in the locker room and in the film room.
"He can help a ton. Just in our first week here, throwing on the side and doing our extra stuff that we do, he's found things that he's seen through his years in the league that he's felt," Rudolph said. "And just to have a guy like that in the huddle and around workouts and stuff like that, it's huge for our offense."
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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