BRADENTON, FLA. - In the middle of a weight room, Vikings rookies Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph engaged in a little throw-and-catch, critiquing each other's form while lofting, of all things, a tennis ball back and forth.
Despite the limitations of the continuing NFL lockout, the Vikings' top two draft picks are getting to know each other this week as part of a small group of players attending three days of workouts organized by Ponder.
"You see all these other teams doing workouts, and we were one of the few teams that wasn't doing anything. Somebody had to get the ball rolling," Ponder said. "I thought as a quarterback, it was up to me to do it. A lot of the veteran guys I reached out to were all gung-ho and excited about it. Everyone was good to me."
Ponder hopes to have 10 to 12 Vikings at the workouts -- receiver Greg Camarillo and quarterback Joe Webb were here Tuesday morning, as was receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux, signed in January from the CFL. Veterans such as Visanthe Shiancoe, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian were scheduled to join the group in time for Wednesday workouts at the IMG Academy under former NFL quarterback and Cretin-Derham Hall star Chris Weinke.
Among the most valuable parts of this week's workouts is the chance Ponder has to share a rare resource -- the Vikings' revised playbook. He got his copy from new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave during the brief window when the lockout was lifted last month, and will make copies for all his teammates attending workouts at IMG.
"It's huge to start getting that bond going, and as a quarterback, you've got to be comfortable with all the guys around you," he said. "To lead and to influence, you have to get to know them personally. I'm excited about getting to know everybody. These are my teammates, and this is my family for as many years as I'm here."
Camarillo was excited Monday morning to meet his new quarterback for the first time and to get his first look at the playbook. But he said building chemistry is the most important part of this week's workouts.
"To work with your teammates, that's when you build camaraderie," he said. "It's something you can't do on your own. You have to be around the guys to get that going. ... Just to start getting on the same page. I can learn [Ponder's] style as a quarterback, he can learn my style as a receiver. ... We can start getting a feel for each other, so that when we finally do get started, it's not Square 1 and we're a little ahead of the game."
Camarillo said the terminology of the new offense is completely different from what the Vikings ran in 2010. Something as simple as the general name of a pass pattern has changed -- an "out" route is now an "okey." Because of the new offensive staff, the Vikings have more of a challenge as a result of the silence mandated by the lockout.
"We're at an extra disadvantage because it's a new offense," said Camarillo, who drove up from his offseason home in Miami. "We haven't had a chance to hear the coaches' philosophies on things. Basic things may sound simple, but when you get a whole bunch of plays and a whole bunch of routes, you're learning a new language."
Weinke, who said he has had no contact with the Vikings, worked with Ponder last week in daily installation of the new offense, helping him learn all the passing plays in a practice environment, which should be more effective than simple memorization.
"It's been huge for me," Ponder said. "It's one thing to look at the playbook on your own and try to study it. Once you get out on the field and do it, do the whole process, that's when you start getting comfortable. I won't be as comfortable until I start going live against some defenses, but this is as good as it gets."