Ponder, Kalil ready to team up on field

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2012 - 11:02 PM

The Vikings quarterback and first-round draft choice met before the draft and started to get to know each other.

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Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

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Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder and recent first-round draft choice Matt Kalil got to know each before the Southern California left tackle made his pre-draft visit to Winter Park.

"It was a few months prior to the draft," Kalil recalled about his first meeting with Ponder. "He was in Los Angeles, he and [New Orleans Saints quarterback] Drew Brees were throwing at UCLA and he's with the same agency as I am, so we all had dinner together and it was pretty fun.

"I liked him a lot. I definitely saw him after the draft, and he had a big smile on his face when I saw him in the Vikings facility. I'm looking forward to getting to know him, and I can't wait to be blocking for him.

"He definitely is a quarterback I want to be playing for. He's an up-and-coming star, and he's going to do great things in this league."

Ponder recalled the dinner in Los Angeles and had a lot of good things to say about Kalil as a person and also how he was hoping that the former Trojan would become a Viking.

Ponder gearing up

Ponder, who is healthy after recovering from having all of his wisdom teeth pulled, said most of the offseason "was kind of a mental and physical break from the season, kind of time to recover.

"Now my focus is going to be get back in shape, put weight back on, get myself physically and mentally prepared for the offseason, taking part in the [organized team activities] and trying to watch film of myself and learn from my mistakes this past season and get better for next year.

"I haven't really started watching a lot [of film] yet, but I'm going to start getting into the routine of watching a lot of film and getting myself prepared, so I will be watching a lot, for sure."

Ponder, who posted a 70.1 passer rating in his rookie season with 1,853 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, said the lockout was a hurdle he had to get over. This year he will have a full offseason under his belt and be able to spend a lot of time in the offense with other players during OTAs, which should greatly benefit him going into his second season.

"I've never had an experience with minicamps before, so to be able to basically go through the NFL version of spring practice will be good," he said. "I know there's a lot of room for me to grow, and I know that's just a starting point. I think it was a lot of learning experiences that I went through, but next year should be much better."

Ponder said he is going to do everything he can to lock down the starting quarterback position. He added that the injuries he suffered last season didn't handicap him too much.

"I'm glad [the coaches] have faith in me," he said. "Obviously with the hip [flexor], that kind of limited my mobility, but that's what happens in football. You're always going to be dealing with injuries, and that's just part of the game."

I believe Ponder will have a good year, and that is a reason the Vikings will do a lot better than many analysts are predicting.

Going through OTAs, minicamps and the normal preseason camp will make him 100 percent better than the quarterback he was a year ago, when he had none of those opportunities to learn the Vikings' system.

Jottings

• Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and ex-Timberwolves, Pistons and Wizards head coach Flip Saunders are good friends, so it was no surprise that Saunders has been attending Celtics practices and games during the playoffs as a consultant to Rivers. Saunders also is close to the Celtics' Kevin Garnett, whom he coached for 10 years with the Timberwolves.

• Andy Seeley, who has been an associate director of athletic communications for the Gophers since 2008, has been named assistant athletic director at Central Florida. Seeley, whose primary duties were connected with Gophers football, did a terrific job and will be difficult to replace.

• Rumors are that Matt Bowen, who coached Bemidji State to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men's basketball regular-season title and the Beavers' second NCAA Division II tournament berth ever, will be the next University of Minnesota Duluth coach. The other finalist for the position is Iowa State director of basketball operations Jeff Rutter.

Bowen is one of several former Indiana basketball managers under former coach Bob Knight to make a name for themselves in coaching, including Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank.

• Twins prospect Miguel Sano continues to put up impressive numbers in his first season, playing for Class A Beloit in the Midwest League. Sano is batting .276 and is currently tied for the league lead in RBI with 21 through 25 games and tied for second in the league in home runs with six.

His on-base percentage is .422, tied for third in the league, and his on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage of 1.008 is also good for third in the league.

• Vadnais Heights native Justin Braun, who attended the UMass-Amherst and plays defense for the San Jose Sharks, has been added to the roster for the 2012 U.S. men's national team, which will compete in the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, this month.

• Bill Smith, the former Twins general manager who is now an assistant to club president Dave St. Peter and GM Terry Ryan, is in Venezuela scouting players for the club.

• Gophers starter T.J. Oakes recently was listed on the College Baseball Hall of Fame's initial Pitcher of the Year watch list. Oakes leads the Big Ten in ERA (1.51), innings pitched (77 2/3), strikeouts (64) and is tied for second in victories with seven.

• Trevor Olson, the former Richfield standout and Jerry Kill recruit at Northern Illinois, has been signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a rookie free-agent contract. Olson, an offensive tackle, was a fourth-team All-America.

• The New York Jets cut former Gophers wide receiver Logan Payne, who was placed on injured reserve last October after dislocating his wrist.

• Linebacker Broderick Binns, who played his college football at Iowa, will rejoinformer Cretin-Derham Hall teammate Michael Floyd with the Arizona Cardinals. Binns signed a free-agent rookie contract Tuesday.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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