Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
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."
Defensive end Lawrence Jackson and cornerback Jacob Lacey are now officially Minnesota Vikings. The team announced the signing of both veterans Monday morning, adding additional depth and reinforcement to their defense.
Jackson agreed to his contract with the Vikings in the middle of last week with the deal finalized today. He comes to the Twin Cities following a three-year stop in Detroit, where he played 37 games as a back-up end. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman had familiarity with Jackson from within the division and saw an opportunity to find another pass-rushing option as the Vikings head into the 2013 season with the team's top three ends -- Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen -- all in the final year of their contracts.
Spielman said on Friday that Jackson was given a one-year deal, which has been the organization's m.o. the past two offseasons with many of their second-tier free agent signings. That gives the Vikings a low-risk opportunity to look at Jackson as a pass rusher in 2013 as they then begin to decide what to do up front going forward with so much uncertainty surrounding the futures of Allen, Griffen and Robison.
Jackson, originally a first-round pick by Seattle in 2008, made 24 starts in his first two NFL seasons with the Seahawks. He has 19.5 career sacks to go along with 141 tackles. He was traded to Detroit in the summer of 2010 in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.
Lacey, meanwhile, also arrives from Detroit where he made nine starts last season, recording 36 tackles and a Week 11 interception of Aaron Rodgers.
Lacey began his career in Indianapolis, signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 draft. He spent three years there working with secondary coach Alan Williams, who is now entering his second season as the Vikings defensive coordinator.
As we noted this morning, the Vikings have been searching for solutions at slot corner since releasing Antoine Winfield last month and failing to re-sign him. Lacey may now find his opening to make a bid for that role.
-- The Vikings released punter T.J. Conley on Monday afternoon, two days after drafting left-footed punter Jeff Locke out of UCLA. Conley was signed in January as a street free agent. He was with the Jets in 2011 but cut before the start of last season and was out of the NFL during the 2012 season.
With Locke selected in the fifth round Saturday, veteran Chris Kluwe is widely figured to be on the ropes as the Vikings eye a new direction at the position.
There aren't many caller ID numbers one picks up for before 8 a.m. on a Sunday after the NFL draft. Cris Carter's is one of them.
The Vikings newest Pro Football Hall of Famer was overjoyed. His great year had just gotten a whole lot better. He said his former team would be signing his son, Duron, as an undrafted rookie free agent. It turns out it's actually an invitation to try out during the team's rookie minicamp this weekend.
"I'm just so happy for him that he'll get an opportunity to continue doing what he loves to do," Carter said. "For him to get that opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings, a team I played for and love, it's just a blessing."
Duron, a 6-4 receiver, caught 13 passes for his dad's alma mater, Ohio State, in 2009. But after becoming academically ineligible, he went to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. He then transferred to Alabama and then Florida Atlantic, but never played for either school.
"Very few have taken the route to the NFL that he's taken," Carter said. "Minnesota presents the best opportunity for him."
So, dad, what are the kid's strengths?
"He has really good size, 6-4," Carter said. "Good speed and his route running is probably his strength."
And the hands? They're attached to a family tree that's believed to contain some pretty good hands.
"Rumor has it," said Carter. "His hands are good."
If he's signed at the end of the tryout and makes it to Mankato for training camp, Duron might have to ask for a few days off in August. He'll be Cris' Hall of Fame presenter in Canton, Ohio.
"This is why I'm not bitter about it taking so long to get into the Hall of Fame," Carter said. "It's perfect timing. It's a big year in my life. But it's also a big year in Duron's life. He's getting an opportunity to make a name for himself."
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