For now anyway, Christian Ponder has at least one thing in common with Drew Brees. What’s that? Despite Brees’ obvious credentials as a Super Bowl winner and one of the league’s most productive veteran quarterbacks, both he and Ponder are stuck in the midst of the NFL lockout and looking for a way to keep their bodies in shape and skills sharp.
Brees organized workouts for him and his New Orleans Saints teammates, and Ponder is showing early leadership skills while taking a lead in organizing his own teammates, most of which he has never even seen in person. It’s unclear how many Vikings will show up for the workouts next week at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla., but Ponder is at the center of the organizing effort and tweeted that receivers Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Emmanuel Arceneaux, along with tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph will be there.
The Vikings’ first-round pick is hoping to earn a starting spot and took to Twitter in the days after the draft to reach out to ensuing draft picks to welcome them to the team. Working at IMG gives the players a facility that has the room, the conditions and even some coaching and training assistance that they may want.
On Thursday morning Ponder tweeted, “Morning conditioning and speed work done… now time to get thick in the weight room baby…curls for girls ;)”
If nothing else, it shows teammates and coaches that follow him on Twitter that he is working out and taking the time to improve his skills, with former Florida State and NFL quarterback Chris Weinke providing tips when it comes to position-specific skills.
Joe Webb – the Vikings’ incumbent quarterback who went from a sixth-round draft pick in April 2010 hoping to make the team as a receiver to a player who was switched back to quarterback in May last year and ended up starting the final two games – is also working out at IMG and expected to be there next week when other Vikings arrive.
That group is likely to include other skill-position players on offense so they start to familiarize themselves with each other’s skills and the new playbook under new coordinator Bill Musgrave. Ponder was able to obtain a playbook during a brief one-day respite from the lockout only hours after being drafted.
The value of organized workouts without the team’s coaching staff in place – they can’t have contact with the players, per the rules of the lockout – is debatable, but with so many different faces on the coaching staff and schemes on offense, it can’t hurt.
“As much as I applaud the veteran leaders—such as Drew Brees—for getting these workouts off the ground, they aren’t the answer,” former NFL safety Matt Bowen wrote for NationalFootballPost.com. “And they are over-hyped in the midst of the NFL lockout.
“Think about structure in an NFL practice setting. Sessions are scripted, detailed and designed by the coaching staff. Got to have that. Red zone, two-minute, blitz period and so on. And, let’s not forget about the crucial time spent with your position coach during individual period. The time to teach technique.”
In the Vikings’ case, the presence of Weinke and others may help bring an NFL minicamp feel to the sessions in Florida, even if the coaches remain in Minnesota.
While other players have been working out on their own in Minnesota (including a group of defensive players), in Houston and in points across the United States, other players were looking forward to getting together and working in a larger group session and, for some, working with teammates for the first time.
“We’ve got something coming up pretty soon. … That’ll be somewhere down south, wherever they had their meetings and everything,” said Arceneaux, who is looking forward to making the transition from the CFL to the NFL this year, before learning of next week’s details. “I kind of stay in the loop so once there is something I know I should fly out and show up to work with some of the established vets.”
Next week’s workouts will be about as organized as the sessions have become this year.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.