Ponder feels progress, optimistic for future

Christian Ponder talked about where he has improved, his outlook with the Vikings versus other teams and whether or not he ever asked for a trade.

After last season, Christian Ponder said he might ask the Minnesota Vikings for a trade. Twice during the 2013 regular season he had and then lost the starting job.

The fourth-year quarterback on Wednesday said he never did ask for a trade and is optimistic about his chances to start at some point in the future. He is also keeping an optimistic view of his possibilities to start in the future, even if that isn’t likely to happen again with the Vikings.

“No, I never did (ask for a trade),” he said. “I feel like I’m learning so much in the situation I’m in right now that it’s beneficial to stay here and learn from these guys. I do feel like I’m getting better from what I’m learning.”

Although Ponder has played only 23 snaps this preseason – all of them coming in the preseason opener – he said he understands why veteran Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater are getting the majority of the playing time and practice time.

On Tuesday, he threw one pass in full-team work. On Monday, he didn’t throw any.

“As a competitor, you want to be out there and also understand what’s going on. They’ve got to get Teddy all the reps they can and this is a new offense, so Matt’s got to get as many reps as well before the season starts,” Ponder said. “I am understanding of the whole situation. Then again, I do want to be out there taking reps and getting plays in.”

In the time he got in the preseason opener, Ponder connected on 3 of 7 passes for 39 yards and heard the boos at TCF Bank Stadium, but he also accepted responsibility for falling to the third string.

“I didn’t do a good enough job in the positions I was in,” Ponder said. “It’s really on my shoulders to exercise and get better on the mental side. I didn’t do that well enough before.”

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is in his first season with the Vikings and doesn’t have much of a history with Ponder, but Turner said on Tuesday he wasn’t happy that fans booed Ponder in the preseason opener.

“I was obviously very disappointed in the opening game the way our fans reacted to Christian because I think he’s done everything he can do and he’s working his butt off and I think he’s a guy that’s going to be valuable to our team,” Turner said. “The thing in Cleveland you’re talking about, we had three different guys have their career-best games in three different situations and we didn’t win the games because we gave up a touchdown at the end of the game or something kept us from winning the game that was out of the quarterback’s hands. I thought that happened to Christian a number of times last year. Having three quarterbacks, if that’s the way we end up going, it’s extremely valuable to me.”

Zimmer said Ponder deserves to be “treated like a Viking.”

The head coach also said he planned to keep three quarterbacks on the roster, so Ponder, with one year left on his rookie contract, could stick around as the third and continue to develop.

Ponder said the mental part of the game is what he is learning about most this year, with an emphasis on diagnosing defenses and setting protections falling more on the quarterbacks than in the past.

“I think this offense kind of demands you to kind of perfect the mental side of the game. They’re pushing all three quarterbacks, you’ve got to be able to recognize defenses pretty quickly and eliminate things pre-snap,” Ponder said. “We’re doing so much with the protections and changing plays at the line, you really have to know defenses and this offense. That’s a big part of what I need to keep improving on is the mental side. I feel like I’ve done that the past few months since I got here.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can do at the line and change protections … there’s a lot of responsibility on the quarterbacks.”

Ponder didn’t know yet on Wednesday if he would get the chance to play Saturday in the third preseason game at Kansas City, but he realizes he needs to take advantage of whatever opportunities he gets. Whether it’s impressing his current coaches or setting up an opportunity with another team, he believes he can be a starter in the NFL in the future.

“Absolutely. I think being in the right position and right situation, I feel like right now I’m excelling,” he said. “I’m getting better at what I’m doing. Hopefully one day I’ll get that opportunity again and take full advantage of it.”

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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