Christian Ponder didn’t exactly rock anyone’s world as a rookie in charge of the Minnesota Vikings’ offense in. But in Ponder’s defense, it was a tough situation. Not only were the Vikings a team in transition, but, due to the lockout, they also didn’t have an offseason to properly get acclimated.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder joined Judd & Phunn on 1500 ESPN in the Twin Cities to talk about how his first proper offseason has been going, the impact organized team activities are having on the locker room, how tough it was not having those practices last year and how these workouts are especially important for a team with — again — quite a few new pieces. He also touched on the shape of the offensive line and Adrian Peterson’s recovery from a torn ACL and MCL.
On actually having offseason practices this year:
“Yeah, it has a completely different feel to it. And last year was such a wacky year, and this year I feel so much comfortable with the OTAs and the practices and stuff. I feel so much more comfortable with the offense and being on a team. But then the other thing is, I feel so much more comfortable being in my surroundings. Last year you moved straight to Minneapolis and we started mini-camp so I didn’t really get used to anything and didn’t get to really check out Minneapolis much, but really loved it here and I’m having a great time here.”
On the impact of not having those practices last year:
“It was pretty substantial. It definitely wouldn’t hurt, I can say that — just being able to learn the offense even more and spending a lot more time with coaches and going over reads and everything. We’ve had so much valuable time this past year, these past two and a half months. It definitely would have helped, but it doesn’t really matter now. I have that first-year experience under my belt, and that was great to learn from and that’s gonna help me tremendously for next year as well. But it definitely stunk last year, that’s for sure.”
On the importance of the practices to a young team with lots of new pieces, including Jerome Simpson, who is suspended for the first three games of the year:
“It’s huge. For a quarterback and receivers and tight ends, timing is everything, and learning how guys run certain routes and what they see on the field. It’s huge. … And obviously Jerome’s gonna miss the first three games, which kinda stinks, but we’ve already built up so much chemistry now that once he gets back for that fourth game, you’re ready to click right away.”
On how confident he is in the Vikings’ offensive line:
“It’s huge. I think drafting Matt Kalil in the first round really secured the offensive line by letting Charlie [Johnson] move inside to left guard, which I think he’s built better for. It’s hard to tell in OTAs obviously — we’re just in shorts and no pads — but they look good. And I think what helps is me understanding the blitzes as well — being able to direct protections and pick up certain things. That’s only gonna help as well. I have full confidence in them. They’re gonna do a great job and give me a lot of time to make plays and open up holes for the run game.”
On how confident he is that Adrian Peterson will be back for the start of the season after tearing up his knee in December:
“You can’t doubt Adrian. The guy number one a freak athlete, and for him to be doing the things that he’s been doing so early after surgery’s unbelievable, so you can’t count him out. I know that [athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman and the training staff’s gonna make the right call, whether they let him play for Week 1 or not, but as of right now he looks good and I know he’s determined to get back for Week 1.”