Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Ponder thrilled to have Kalil aboard, hasn't stopped smiling since draft night

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Leslie Frazier, Vikings draft Updated: June 7, 2012 - 10:27 AM

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has seemed all sorts of enthusiastic throughout this offseason. And that hasn't changed during the Vikings' Organized Team Activities the past two weeks.

Ponder feels he's ready to take a big step forward in Year 2 as the Vikings' starter. And a big part of that, he says, is the reinforcements the team has put around him to give the offense a boost.

Left tackle Matt Kalil? Ponder's thrilled to have the 6-foot-6, 306-pound bodyguard on his side.

“I haven’t stopped smiling since that Thursday night of the draft," Ponder said Wednesday afternoon during an interview on "NFL Total Access" which aired on the NFL Network. "I’m definitely excited that we picked up Matt. He’s already impressed me. He’s come into these OTAs and he’s working hard. He’s a big guy, he’s really athletic and he’s going to do a great job. Obviously he did really well at USC and he’s going to continue that and be really good in the NFL. Hopefully we have 10-15 years together with the Vikings.”

Ponder had similar praise for receiver Jerome Simpson, who's fast becoming one of his favorite targets. During Wednesday's practice Simpson made a circus catch over the top of cornerback Chris Cook, a reception that head coach Leslie Frazier said was just the latest Simpson highlight that left the entire team "jacked up."

Ponder's breakdown of the day and of Simpson's value: “We were in a blitz period and they rolled coverage away from Jerome and he had a one-on-one on a go-route. I just threw it up to him and he made a heck of a play. He plucked it right off the defensive back’s head. Jerome has really impressed me since Day One that he stepped in here. He’s an unbelievable athlete. He finds ways to get open, he runs great routes, he has great hands and he really cares. He’s come in and busted his butt since Day One."

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