Ponder: ‘Big benefit' I'm still here

Despite a future in doubt, Christian Ponder said he is getting first-team reps and making the most of his situation this offseason.

Christian Ponder seems to know the score.

He is the only one of the three Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks that didn't have anything happen with his contract. In fact, the lack of the Vikings picking up the fifth-year option on his contract is telling in itself.

Veteran Matt Cassel got a two-year, $10.5 million contract that indicates he will have every chance to enter the season as the starter. First-round pick Teddy Bridgewater was shown love when the Vikings traded back into the first round to select him and received a four-year, $6.8 million contract. The Vikings simply declined to pick up Ponder's option, which would have cost them $9.68 million, leaving 2014 as the final year on his rookie contract.

"I didn't expect them too, honestly. How things went down, the offseason, last year, I expected that it wasn't going to happen," Ponder said Wednesday of the option year in his contract. "It was for my benefit. I would like to have that guarantee, but it's not even a guarantee to stick around unless I'm injured or whatever. It has my options open after the season. I have leverage to stay here or go somewhere else where there's a better place for me to play. We'll see."

For now, Ponder has to settle for some limited reps with the first-team offense in organized team activities while Cassel gets the majority of those and Bridgewater is prepped as the next quarterback of the future that Ponder hasn't turned out to be.

"The past few days I've had some reps with the ones (first-team offense) and just kind of sharing between the ones and the twos," he said. "When I'm out there, I'm trying to make the best of every play and make smart decisions. As we keep going forward, I think they'll have more of a set plan after OTAs going into camp, going into the preseason games and we'll see what happens."

Ponder couldn't make the best of his situation last year, when he entered the season as the starter. He started the first three games before injury and ineffectiveness had the Vikings turning to Cassel for the fourth game. But Ponder got another chance a month later, after Cassel was replaced with Josh Freeman, who stunk up his only start with the Vikings.

Ponder ended up starting nine games in total, completing a team-high 63.6 percent of his passes but throwing only seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

That has left the 2011 first-round pick largely in the background this offseason, ceding practice time and reps to the presumed veteran starter in Cassel and the presumed quarterback of the future in Bridgewater.

"I'm just trying to learn as much as possible, especially from Matt and Scott Turner (quarterbacks coach) and Norv (Turner, offensive coordinator)," Ponder said. "I'm trying to compete and trying to do my best when I'm getting the reps that I'm getting and we'll see what happens. There's always room for improvement from me and there's always things I can learn. If I play this year, have the chance to play this year, or if I'm somewhere next year, we'll see. There's always improvement that I can make and that's what I'm trying to do right now."

The selection of Bridgewater did surprise Ponder, and he even said the added competition at the position is good for all involved.

"It's good for this team. It's good for me, it's good for Matt, it's good for everybody. There's competition at the quarterback spot," Ponder said. "He's great having in the quarterback room. He's a quiet guy, but he's humble and works hard. I like having him around."

At the end of the last season, it wasn't certain that Ponder would be around. He talked at one point during the frustrating end that he might even consider asking for a trade. Now he says he wanted to return to the Vikings, despite the situation.

"Yeah, I did, especially knowing Norv was coming in, that there was going to be a lot that I could learn and pick up from him," Ponder said. "So, it's a big benefit for me that I'm still here."

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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