MANKATO - Brett Favre played in the NFL until he was 41 years old. Donovan McNabb said Sunday after reporting to training camp that he plans to exit before Favre did, but then made it clear that won't be anytime soon.
"I feel like I've got five more years left, five or six more years left," said McNabb, who will turn 35 on Nov. 25. "If that puts me at 40, so be it. The whole thing about it is playing at a high level, still competing at this game, and I still feel like I have gas [in the tank]."
If McNabb accomplishes this goal, his career isn't likely to end in Minnesota. The Vikings did not draft quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the first round last April to put him on a five-year development plan.
Ponder realizes this but also understands McNabb's outlook.
"Obviously, I think anyone in this league is always trying to be here as long as they can," Ponder said. "Of course that's going to be his mentality. And he's good enough to do that.
"My attitude is I'm going to go out there and compete and try to win the starting job but at the same time try to soak as much information from a guy who has been to the Pro Bowl six times and has been to several NFC championships and a Super Bowl."
Ponder and many of his new teammates will be on the field for the first time Monday afternoon for a single practice that will open camp. McNabb, obtained in a trade from Washington last week, won't be eligible to begin practicing until Thursday, when the new collective bargaining agreement is expected to be ratified.
(The rule impacts veterans who received new contracts; McNabb was traded to the Vikings and then had his contract redone.)
Ponder will be practicing one day after signing a four-year contract that will pay him around $10 million and is all guaranteed. Under the new CBA, all first-round picks get contracts that include a non-negotiable fifth-year option. Without McNabb on the field, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier plans to give the first-team reps to Joe Webb because he finished last season as the starter.
Ponder, however, is sure to get plenty of work as the Vikings try to make up for the fact that the rookie did not get any offseason work with the team because of the lockout.
"I'm definitely excited," he said. "It's kind of been a weird week because everything happened so fast. The lockout ended. I got my contract signed. And all of a sudden, now we're in Mankato.
"It's been a whirlwind, and now it's finally great that football is starting. The crazy thing is down in Florida State, in college, you practice four or five weeks before you have a game. Two weeks from yesterday, we're playing in Tennessee for a preseason game."
McNabb is expected to start that game and all others the Vikings will play this season. Ponder said he was not surprised Frazier named McNabb his starting quarterback after the trade was completed.
Ponder had hoped to start the regular-season opener Sept. 11 at San Diego but at the same time realized that would be a tall order given that the offseason was wiped out.
"The guy deserves a starting job," Ponder said. "He's been in the league for a while."
Ponder and McNabb got an opportunity to talk on Saturday in what Ponder called a brief introduction. Ponder said McNabb seemed like a great guy and will be "awesome" to work with; McNabb, in turn, said he is "very excited" to work with Ponder.
Ponder is a guy who earned his master's degree after his junior year at Florida State, so it's safe to say he will be absorbing anything McNabb tells him.
"The biggest thing that I'm going to soak up from him is his preparation," Ponder said. "How he handles being an NFL quarterback. He's successful at doing something. I've just got to figure out what that is and then copy it and hopefully use it against him to win that starting job."
Or would it be a good idea for Ponder to show some patience? Aaron Rodgers spent three years playing behind Favre, and that worked out OK for the quarterback and the Packers, who won the Super Bowl last season.
"There's an advantage to getting thrown in early and trying to get some playing time," Ponder said. "That's what everyone wants. But there's an advantage to sitting back and waiting and learning from a guy like Brett Favre or Donovan McNabb.
"Those guys are successful, and you can learn something from them. I think it paid off for Aaron. A Super Bowl ring isn't a bad deal. I'm looking to do that here."