Hartman: Ponder views QB job an open competition

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 29, 2014 - 8:36 AM

Matt Cassel might be the Vikings’ presumed starter, but Ponder might greatly improve in Norv Turner’s system.

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Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder shows his stuff at mini camp in late April.

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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.”

Vikings suite sales

The Vikings’ new stadium preview center has been open for only three months and already half the suites have been sold. The Vikings and Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, the sales agency overseeing the process, had already sold 49 suites before last week’s Super Bowl LII announcement — the purchase of a suite guarantees the right to purchase 2018 Super Bowl tickets. Only 36 of the 116 planned suites remain for sale; the rest are reserved for team sponsors.

Of the six suite types, the most popular has been the Norseman Suites, which are located on the main concourse level. Twenty-one of the 27 Norseman Suites have been sold. All eight Touchdown Suites, which are located in the east end zone, have been sold.

Jottings

• There is good news from the Twins’ Class AAA Rochester farm team, which has much better players this year and a 27-23 record. This is the first time the Red Wings have been over .500 at this point in the season since 2009. One of the reasons for the improvement is the great pitching of Alex Meyer, who came to the Twins from Washington in the Denard Span trade in November of 2012. Meyer is 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA.

• Because the Vikings have a new coaching staff, they will have four minicamps rather than the normal three. The dates are May 28-30, June 3-5, June 9-12 and then a mandatory camp June 17-19.

• Former Twins center fielder Ben Revere hit a home run for the Phillies on Tuesday. It was his first home run in 1,466 major league at-bats, the longest homerless streak since 1977. Revere is hitting .288 with 21 runs scored and 12 stolen bases in 43 games.

• The Vikings still have four former defensive players looking for work: defensive tackle Kevin Williams and linebackers Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell and Erin Henderson. With the news that Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL early this week, one of those former Vikings linebackers might end up there.

• Former Cooper standout and future UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn has been invited to try out for USA Basketball’s 2014 Under-18 Men’s National Team. The tryouts will take place June 10-19 in Colorado Springs.

• Former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau finally seems to be over his injuries and is playing great with the Rockies. Entering Wednesday, Morneau was ninth in the NL in RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.538) and 10th in home runs with nine. … Michael Cuddyer, Morneau’s teammate and another former Twin, is back in the lineup after missing 28 games because of a sore hamstring. Cuddyer has hit .323 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored in eight games since coming back.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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