Consistency still a key issue for Ponder

It's June, but judging by recent practices, consistency will still be a key for QB Christian Ponder.

The Vikings – from coaches to general manager Rick Spielman to teammates – have been consistent with the company line that Christian Ponder's season-ending four-game stretch last year gives them confidence he can be the quarterback of the future.

That's what the Vikings were hoping when they drafted Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft. His first 22 games were riddled with inconsistency – strong beginnings followed by periods of erratic play.

It's only June and what takes place at organized team activities in practices without pads doesn't count for or against a team's record in the fall, but Ponder still showed signs of inconsistency at Tuesday's session.

The highlight was a long touchdown pass to Jerome Simpson that covered roughly 60 yards. The receiver beat cornerback Chris Cook and safety Harrison Smith with a double move and created separation.

The lowlight was a similar route not long before the touchdown toss. This time, Simpson was covered closely by Cook, but Ponder attempted an over-the-top pass that didn't make it over the top. Cook leaped for the ball about 30 yards downfield and came down with the interception.

Earlier in the practice session, Smith also intercepted Ponder, Cook batted down another one of the quarterback's passes and undrafted rookie Collins Ukwu intercepted a pass that was deflected by rookie linebacker Gerald Hodges.

Still, despite the uncertain nature of Ponder's play as he enters his third NFL season, the Vikings mostly seemed to stress Ponder's ability to make progress with his leadership.

"I think he's made tremendous strides from a leadership standpoint, watching around the huddle, the command that he's displaying," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "I think he has the physical ability; there's no doubt in my mind about that. But being able to do the things from the neck up that a quarterback has to do, I'm seeing a maturation in that area, and that's what we need. We need that type of leadership for our football team. He's showing some of that. We've just got to keep seeing that over the course of the next few months."

Defensive end Jared Allen said he talked to Ponder at Allen's charity golf tournament earlier this spring about stepping up as a leader in his third season.

After quite the up-and-down session Tuesday, Ponder's practice ended when he went to his most familiar and reliable target – tight end Kyle Rudolph. Shortly after his long touchdown pass to Simpson, Ponder was set up on the 12-yard line. He looked over the middle of the field and found middle linebacker Erin Henderson matched up with Rudolph. Ponder lofted a high, soft pass that instigated contact from Henderson on the tight end, and Rudolph hauled in the touchdown pass shortly before three flags landed near his feet to signal pass interference on Henderson.

On a day of drastic ups and downs, the Vikings were inclined to have Ponder leave the field on a positive note.


  • Kicker Blair Walsh was 6-for-8 on his field goal attempts. His two misses were both wide left.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Sherels, Josh Robinson, Stephen Burton, A.J. Jefferson and Joe Webb also had turns returning kickoffs.

  • Former Vikings Kenechi Udeze and Richard Angulo are attending practices this week as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship Program. Angulo is the offensive line/strength and conditioning coach from Trinity International University and Udeze worked with the strength and conditioning of the Seattle Seahawks the last three years.

  • Defensive tackles Fred Evans and Letroy Guion continue to take turns working with the first-team defense alongside Kevin Williams.

  • Backup QB Matt Cassel took some snaps with the first-team offense.

  • Rookie Travis Bond has shown his versatility, playing left tackle at times as well as guard.

  • Center John Sullivan (microfracture knee surgery) isn't expected to practice until training camp.

    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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