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 on Cassel pushing him, Harvin, a scary ER visit and more

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: May 1, 2013 - 11:43 AM

When the QUARTERBACK!!!!! speaks, people listen. So here's the full Q&A between Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and local reporters during a break in the offensive players' offseason workout at Winter Park on Wednesday. It includes Ponder's thoughts on losing Percy Harvin, feeling competition from new backup Matt Cassel and a scary trip to the emergency room that turned out OK in February. 

On the changes at receiver in the offseason:

A: "Well, obviously, there are some changes. Obviously, Percy was a very dynamic and good player that we obviously used a lot of the field. We lost a player for sure and Seattle got a good one. But to have Greg [Jennings] come in, obviously, we faced him every year twice. He was a good player and will be a good player for us. And to draft Cordarrelle [Patterson] and sign a couple of undrafted guys, it's going to be big. The big thing with Greg, who's obviously a great player, is he also provides that leadership. I think he's a true pro. He can show these young guys what it takes in this league. I think we have a good dynamic. Everyone has come and shown up to work. It will be good to get these rookies in this weekend. The dynamic has changed, but I think it's good."

On whether he asserts himself any differently this season:

A: "I think so. I think it's time for me to step up vocally and grasp ahold of this leadership position and work with those guys like Greg, John Sullivan, Charlie Johnson, Adrian [Peterson] and a bunch of other guys. It's time for us to make this our team. That's definitely the next step."

On what Patterson brings to the team:

A: "I think he's going to make an impact this year. A first round pick, had a lot of hype coming out. I watched some film on him and he's great with the ball in his hands. And he's a taller guy. He's 6-2. He's a legitimate size receiver. We'll probably put him at the `X' and do some things with him. We'll obviously try to get him the ball and see what he can do."

On his concerns going forward at receiver the day Harvin was released:

A: "We trust in Coach [Leslie] Frazier and [General Manager] Rick [Spielman]. They're smart guys. They know what they're doing. We're just here to show up and work, no matter which players are in place. We knew that was going to work itself out, and it did."

On whether he's sees the potential for a more diverse offense with Jennings and Patterson added at receiver:

A: "I'm sure [offensive coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] has stuff up his sleeve that we're going to do and utilize these guys. But, of course, it's a different team. We've got different guys on the team. We got a lot of key pieces back with the offensive line and Adrian and Toby [Gerhart] and the other receivers. Some new faces that we're going to utilize every single piece of this offense and these weapons we have."

On the offseason workouts the team is going through now:

A: "They're good. It's good to be back and be with all the guys. Everyone is showing up and working hard. I think last week with the conditioning that we started, we jumped in right away. Everyone has progressed great. I don't think there's any comparison this year to last year."

On whether he'll be more assertive in his communications with Musgrave:

A: "We had a lot of communication last year. That will continue this year. He's great working with every single one of us, especially me. We sit down every Friday and throughout the whole week about what I like and I don't like. I think that cocmmunication will continue to grow."

On whether he feels challenged by new No. 2 quarterback Matt Cassel:

A: "Even though they say [he's the backup], I think there's always competition. Matt has come in and worked his butt off. He's thrown well. He's a great asset to have on this team and for me. Some of the things we've already talked about is going to help me out. But there's competition there for both of us."

On whether he feels secure as the starter:

A: "That's my mindset. But in the back of your mind, you always think there's competition. I don't think you want to get very comfortable where you are no matter who's back there."

On his first offseason as a married man to ESPN reporter Samantha Steele:

A: "It's great. Sam obviously works in the sports field, so she knows what it takes to be great. She's been awesome to have. She keeps me straight. She pushes me. She knows what it takes. She's on me, so she's good."

On what he's tries to learn from Cassel:

A: "We talk about leadership. We talk about offense specifically. We watch film. We talk about how receivers should be running their routes. There's just a lot of communication going on between us. It's great. It's good to have a guy like that to bounce ideas back and forth. He worked with Tom [Brady] in New England and started in Kansas City, so he's got a lot of knowledge that I can soak up."

On how much throwing he does this time of year:

A: "We do it every day. It's structured Monday through Thursday for us with the receivers. And then Friday, anyone who wants to come in and get some extra work in, comes in. We'll go through four or five routes a day. It's a great time for us to get on the same page and be communicative on how we want a slant versus man to be run or how they should be coming out of a comeback route at the top of their route. Just a lot of communication and teaching going on."

After saying there was no lingering problems with the elbow injury that kept him from participating in the playoff loss at Green Bay, Ponder talked about how long it took to get healthy:

A: "A couple weeks after [the season was over], the injury came back randomly. The whole arm swelled up and I actually had to go to the ER and get that taken care of. It was a little scary with [concerns] about a blood clot. But it ended up being fine. The bruise came back. About two weeks after that, all the effects went away. Since then, I've been working out probably two months and it's been fine."

On what took place in the emergency room:

A: "They didn't do anything. I got an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging exam] and they said the contusion came back. I don't know why or how, but it did. It was just weird. All of a sudden, the whole thing got rock hard and swelled up. I was scared to death that it was a blood clot, so I went to the ER. They said it was fine. Just to ice it down or whatever and it would work itself out."

On what the phone call was like when he informed the Vikings he was heading for the ER with an arm issue:

A: "I called Sugs [head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman] first. Thanks goodness because the doctor at the ER, obviously, she was a great help but she wanted to go into surgery. She thought it was compartmental syndrome. It was a little scary. Luckily, Sugs called at the right moment and talked to the doctor and said don't do anything crazy. Just go get an MRI to make sure. And it ended up being fine. They were scaring me with what they wanted to do."

On whether he thinks this is a pivotal season for him:

A: "Obviously, it's important. We expect progression each year and for us to be a playoff team last year we expect even more this year. For me, I always have to have personal growth. I'm not putting too much pressure on myself that it's supposed to be a spectacular year. But I put pressure on myself that it should be a pretty good progression."

On what areas he's trying to improve on the field:

A: "I think any position, especially quarterback, there's always fundamentals you have to work on. Been doing some drills and I've come up with some of my own, and talking to coaches about drills I can do. And obviously you want to keep building on the chemistry with the receivers and throwing routes and stuff. But the biggest thing is fundamentals."

On how he dealt with not being able to play in the playoff game and how much it bothered him:

A: "Obviously that week and watching all the way to the Super Bowl was hard. Knowing that we were knocked out in the first round and to not even have a chance be a part of it [stunk], but once we got past that, once the Super Bowl was over and football was done, it was fine. It was time to get back to work, start focusing and move on."

On whether there's any part of him that's happy to move on from all the drama that Harvin brought off the field:

A: "Obviously, we're going to miss him. He was a part of this team. He was one of our teammates and one of our family members. He was a great player it was good to have on this team. It was tough to see him go, especially a team like Seattle, who has half their players are Vikings players. It will be interesting to face him when we do this seaosn. It was tough to see him go, but fortunately for us, we have some good guys to fill in though."  

 

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