Ponder bulkier, looking to improve

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • June 21, 2012 - 11:01 PM

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was asked Thursday if he feared a sophomore slump.

"I had a freshman year slump last year," he joked. "I don't think it can get any worse. ... I've got a lot to improve on from last year."

Both Ponder and coach Leslie Frazier feel Ponder made a lot of progress during the nine weeks of offseason work, which culminated in Thursday's final minicamp practice. And, much like the first two days of minicamp, Ponder's performance offered a mixed bag. He had some very impressive completions, including a nice pass down the right side to rookie Jarius Wright for a 25-yard touchdown.

There were also some misfires. Still, Ponder said he has come a long way in his first full offseason of NFL preparation.

"Nine weeks flew by," he said. "It's crazy that we're finally done. Just from Day 1 of OTAs to the third day of minicamp we've progressed so much."

Ponder said a big point of emphasis was being more efficient on first and second down. The goal was to complete 75 percent of pass attempts on those downs, and Ponder said the team was at or near that mark.

Ponder said he also has to build chemistry with some new receivers, particularly Jerome Simpson and rookies Wright and Greg Childs.

"I feel so much better in the reads and getting the ball out so much faster," Ponder said. "And ['I'm] picking up blitzes, being able to recognize different things."

Frazier said the game has clearly slowed a bit for Ponder, who is doing a better job with pre-snap reads. "He's improving, but he has a ways to go for some of the things we want to do with him," he said.

Here is another big change for Ponder: Determined to avoid the injuries that plagued him as a rookie, Ponder said he has gotten bigger. He weighed 212 pounds in early March, but is at about 233 now. Ponder wants to be just under 230 when training camp starts, and he will also work hard on keeping his flexibility.

Slowing down

Rookie kicker Blair Walsh's accuracy has gone up because he has slowed down.

Walsh is the kicker the Vikings drafted in the sixth round to replace Ryan Longwell. Walsh had a difficult final season at Georgia, when he made only 21 of 35 field-goal attempts.

But Walsh capped a strong minicamp by going 9-for-9 on field goals Thursday, and he gave special teams coordinator Mike Priefer credit.

"He was rushing every kick," Priefer said. "Every kick he missed, he hit them well, but he was much too fast with his get-off time."

So Priefer had Walsh slow down. Not a lot, probably one- or two-tenths of a second. But it made a big difference. "It kept building every year [at Georgia], and I was never able to check it down," Walsh said. "I came in here and coach had a couple good ideas on how to bring it down to a normal speed. I feel great right now."


• Defensive lineman Everson Griffen got significant work at linebacker Thursday.

• Frazier said linebacker Jasper Brinkley is one of a handful of players who will stay in Minnesota to get treatment for injuries. Brinkley is still battling a groin injury that kept him out of minicamp.

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