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.


Christian Ponder leaves Vikings mini-camp with another vote of confidence

Posted by: Updated: June 20, 2013 - 1:56 PM

With mini-camp finished at Winter Park and 34 days left before the Vikings reconvene in Mankato for the start of training camp, quarterback Christian Ponder has time to detach from football for a bit. He’ll now enjoy some more alone time with new wife Samantha Steele Ponder and slip away from the microanalysis that stalks NFL quarterbacks at every turn.

So just how has Ponder fared over the past month, through 10 days of Organized Team Activities and three mini-camp practices?

As we’ve said all along, making bold proclamations one way or the other about Ponder’s performance is senseless at this stage of the year. Yes, we’ve noted some of the woeful interceptions Ponder threw during OTAs while also recognizing his heightened understanding of the offense and steady confidence.

We can also guarantee this: barring an injury, Ponder will be under center when the Vikings open the regular season Sept. 8 in Detroit. And it is at that point that we’ll begin to compile the most meaningful evidence for whether or not Ponder is ready to take a leap forward in his third year as a starter.

Until then, and no matter what happens throughout training camp, it’ll be impossible to truly measure Ponder’s long-term viability at quarterback.

Through the offseason, we’ve seen plenty of inconsistency from Ponder. And that’s probably more predictable than concerning, particularly with an overhauled receiving corps during a phase of preparation that includes plenty of experimentation.

In other words: have patience folks. The final verdict on Ponder is not yet in. And it won't be for a while.

The hope at Winter Park is that Ponder has positioned himself for a 2013 breakthrough. The worst-case scenario, of course, is that he's the worst kind of starting quarterback possible -- good enough to have big games that produce waves of hope but ultimately too inconsistent to ever get over the hump.

Still, as the Vikings separated for a five-week break, the internal optimism surrounding Ponder’s potential continued to percolate.

Following Thursday's final mini-camp practice, head coach Leslie Frazier lauded Ponder’s mental maturation.

“His football above the neck has been impressive in the time that we've been out here on the field practicing,” Frazier said. “He's got the athletic ability, but you want him to make good decisions under center. And some of the things he's done in these practices kind of leads me to believe, along with our staff, that he's grown a lot in that area.”

As evidence, Frazier noted that Ponder has been more assertive in communicating with his linemen, running backs and receivers, using his highly touted intelligence to aid the growth of the group.

Said Frazier: “He knows our entire offense. But it helps the rest of our players when they see him take charge and say, 'You know, I want you to be at this spot when you're going out for a route.' Or if you're an offensive tackle, 'Hey, you've got to make sure you block the three-technique [tackle].' Guys kind of appreciate that. They feel like, 'OK, this guy not only knows his responsibilities, but he understands what I have to get done, as well.' So that's part of the maturation that we're seeing. And the next step would be for him to have early success. And of course, his teammates will continue to gain more confidence when that happens."

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Kansas City - LP: B. Chen 1 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 5
Cincinnati - WP: T. Cingrani 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: B. Cumpton 1
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 7
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 4
Minnesota - WP: R. Nolasco 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: E. Bedard 7
Arizona - WP: M. Bolsinger 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 2
San Diego - WP: A. Torres 4 FINAL
Washington - LP: C. Stammen 3
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 11 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Cecil 4
NY Yankees - WP: C. Sabathia 14 FINAL
Boston - LP: F. Doubront 5
Oakland - WP: S. Kazmir 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 1
Philadelphia - WP: M. Adams 7 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 3
Indiana 85 FINAL
Atlanta 98
Oklahoma City 95 FINAL
Memphis 98
LA Clippers 98 FINAL
Golden State 96
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Colorado 1 FINAL
Minnesota 2
San Jose 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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