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Hartman: Ponder not worried about extension deal

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • May 1, 2014 - 1:51 AM

Apparently there is no chance the Vikings will exercise their fifth-year option on quarterback Christian Ponder’s rookie contract for his services in 2015 when it comes due Saturday. The Vikings haven’t talked to Ponder nor his agent about it.

Under terms of the contract, the Vikings would have to sign Ponder for around $10 million in 2015, though the contract would only be guaranteed if Ponder got hurt. If they don’t exercise the contract, Ponder would become a free agent at the end of this season and have the right to sign with any other club.

Ponder said that while he knows the decision on his contract is coming up, he’s not worried about it.

“I won’t be disappointed [if they don’t extend it],” he said. “You know, honestly, I’m not focused on it at this point. So if it doesn’t happen I won’t be disappointed, if it does happen it doesn’t really mean that much because it’s not guaranteed unless there’s an injury. My whole focus right now is just competing and trying to learn this offense because it’s a lot right now during this offseason and during this minicamp. I’m trying to do the best I can to learn this and go out on the field and earn myself a job.”

Ponder was asked if he thinks the high price tag will keep the Vikings from offering him the extension.

“My expectation would probably be that you’re right, but again, if they exercise the option it’s not holding them to anything because they can cut me after this year and not pay me a dime,” he said. “So you know for me, it’s not what I’m focusing on. But if something happens, I’ll hear about it for sure.”

Ponder said that between learning new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system and battling for the starting quarterback job, the contract extension means little to him.

“It doesn’t make a difference [if they extend me],” he said. “I’m going to be in the meeting room trying to study my butt off, on the field practicing my butt off to be able to be out there and play, and that stuff will take care of itself.”

Does Ponder believe that having a new head coach and a drastically different coaching staff gives him a clean slate this year?

“I think it’s the same thing for everyone,” he said. “The past few years we haven’t done what anyone has wanted to do, and the same goes for me. I haven’t done what I wanted to do. These coaches are going to coach us hard and, I think, expect the very best out of us on every play. They’re hard coaches, and I think that’s good. It’s a clean slate for me. I’m going to try to learn as much as possible from Norv and Scott Turner and try to earn a position on the field.”

Ponder, who for his career has a 14-20-1 record and a 77.3 quarterback rating, said he knows the Vikings could still re-sign him if he performs at a high level this year.

“They could, [but] that stuff is all down the road,” he said. “That’s a year from now. There’s so much going on right now that it’s hard to even think about that stuff.”

What did Ponder do to prepare for what might be his most important season in Minnesota?

“I was in Phoenix and I started training in the middle of January,” he said. “I wanted to be in good shape coming into this thing and be prepared to go out and be able to lead and have more of a leadership role and to be able to compete on the field. I was at Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, and it was probably 12 to 15 guys that were working out there. I was throwing with the combine guys that are coming out in the draft right now. There were a number of receivers that were very talented out there and were actually good to throw to.”

Ponder was asked if he still believes he can be the starter for the Vikings. “I know I can do it,” he said without hesitation.

Did he have any doubts he would be back with the team this season?

“I didn’t know what was going to go on, but I’m glad I’m still here and I’m glad I’m getting an opportunity to compete,” he said. “We’re going to see what happens.”

Respect for Taylor

It is amazing the respect the NBA owners and Commissioner Adam Silver have for Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. Taylor served five years as chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors and then when his successor, Spurs owner Peter Holt, resigned the position in mid-April because of personal reasons, Taylor was brought back on an interim basis.

Now Taylor is involved and in the middle of the national issue surrounding Silver’s lifetime ban of Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the NBA’s attempt to force Sterling to sell the team.

Jottings

• Finance and Commerce reports that the Burnsville office of PCL Construction Services, in a teaming with Shawn-Lindquist Associates, and Mortenson Construction are the finalists for the $97 million remodeling contract of Target Center that will include improving the concourses, lobbies, entrances, lighting and audio-visual equipment and adding loading docks. The Minneapolis City Council is expected to name the contractor early in May.

• Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino was asked to describe his 2014 recruiting class of six players: “I think more than anything I think when we got here, we wanted to find a way to build kind of the way our team wants to play with athleticism, speed. I think we’ve successfully been able to do that. Year 1 certainly helped with the success that we had, it became a little easier talking to people about the year that we had. They saw us, they watched us. It’s never going to be easy, but it was certainly less difficult than when we arrived [in 2013], coming late to the party.”

• Michael Handel, the son of Gophers associate athletic director Randy Handel, is the starting shortstop for the Gophers baseball team.

• All of the Gophers football and basketball players are expected to be in summer school. The football players are not allowed to practice under the supervision of coaches; the basketball team is allowed to have limited practices under the coaches.

• Two incoming Gophers hockey recruits, Jack Glover and Ryan Collins, helped the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s Under-18 World Championships in Lappeenranta, Finland, over the weekend with a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic. Glover had a goal and two assists in the tournament, while Collins had a couple of assists, including one in the gold medal game. Both have played with the U.S. National Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the past couple of seasons.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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