A lot of eyes will be on quarterback Christian Ponder as the Vikings open their first of three organized workouts this week. Most media members and Vikings fans are of the opinion that Matt Cassel has the position locked up, and some are confident Ponder, the former first-round draft choice from Florida State, won’t be a member of the team when the Vikings report to Mankato for training camp in late July.
I happened to disagree. I believe there is a chance Ponder will do a lot better this year under Norv Turner’s new offensive system.
In a recent interview with Ponder, he appeared confident that he will surprise people with his performance this year.
Ponder was asked how he perceived the offseason moves, including a two-year, $10 million contract for Cassel in March.
“I expected Matt to come back, and that’s good for this team and even good for me,” Ponder said. “Competition is great for anybody, plus me and Matt have such a good relationships already.”
Ponder also said he was sure the Vikings were going to draft a quarterback, because he and Cassel were the only two on the roster before the selection of Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the draft.
“It’s a competition,” Ponder said. “Whether it’s Joe Montana or someone else here, it’s a competition. It’s fun. It’s fun to compete. You know when I first got here, Donovan [McNabb] came in and played, and I got the ability to go out and play and Donovan left and there wasn’t much competition going on in there. So this is going to be good for all of us and push us to be our best.”
Ponder was asked about the implementation of the new offensive system.
“It’s a lot, and it’s a lot more on our plate than we had last year. But once the plays you have are in, it lets us make some decisions … to get out there and have control of what you’re doing and be able to react to different things and play, so it’s fun.”
The Vikings didn’t pick up Ponder’s option, which didn’t surprise him, and he will be a free agent at the end of this year. He won’t be back for the 2015 season if he doesn’t get a chance to play or doesn’t produce when he does.
Ponder was asked about the assumption that Cassel will be the starter.
“The expectation is that he’s going to be a starter, but for me, I’m competing for the job, and that’s what’s going on in my mind is the competition,” he said. “I think about how we talked about it before, that this is a clean slate for all of us. I don’t think the coaches have made a decision on what’s going on yet, but hopefully the best guy gets to play.”
How does Ponder think he performed last season?
“It was disappointing how the year went, but honestly when I left, it was more motivation than anything,” Ponder said. “I really worked hard this offseason, more than I have in the past. I didn’t want it to happen again. I knew there was going to be a competition to play and I tried to do my best to prepare.”
Why didn’t Ponder improve last year?
“Turnovers were the biggest thing, that cost us quite a few games,” he said. “Just some dumb decisions and that has been kind of the past three years. It’s something I have to fix, and hopefully learning things from Norv is going to help me.”
And what has Turner said about what he expects from the Vikings quarterbacks?
“He talks a lot about ball security, so not turning the ball over,” Ponder said. “His offense is all about timing and rhythm and getting the ball out, so you know if it’s one hitch and the guy’s not open, move on. I like that, being able to make those pre-snap reads and get the ball out as quick as possible. It really limits you on your reads, the guys you have to go to, and that will help you make decisions quicker.”