The Vikings reported to training camp in Mankato Sunday night and among them was rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder was the last of the Vikings draft picks to sign, agreeing to a four-year deal worth about $11 million.
The signing comes just days after the Vikings made a deal with veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, but Ponder said the news didn’t come as a huge shock. When he met with the Vikings during the brief open window of the lockout on draft weekend, he was told (as were the local media by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave) that the team was certain to sign a veteran. He may not have expected someone of McNabb’s stature, but added that he is coming in to not only help the Vikings, but help his progress and that of second-year pro Joe Webb as well.
Yet, Ponder realizes that McNabb isn’t coming into the Vikings organization to be a spectator. Neither is Ponder, who believes he still has a chance to win the starting job in the preseason … or least that is the way he is going to approach it.
“I think anyone is this league is always trying to be here as long as they can,” Ponder said when asked about McNabb wanting to play five or six more years. “That’s going to be his mentality. He’s good enough to do that. My attitude is I’m going to go out there and compete and try to win the starting job, but, at the same time, soak in as much information for a guy who has been to the Pro Bowl six times and has been to several NFC Championships and a Super Bowl. So, of course I’m going to compete, but learn at the same time.”
From the time he was drafted, Ponder has been on the fast track to beginning his NFL career. But since the photo ops in his Brooks Brothers suit in late April, it has been more of a case of “hurry up and wait.” Everything was put on hold until the end of the lockout that brought the NFL to a standstill. It didn’t end until Monday and things have been moving fast and furious ever since.
“I’m definitely excited,” Ponder said. “It’s kind of been a weird week because everything happened so fast – the lockout ended, I got my contract signed and all of the sudden now we’re in Mankato. It’s been a whirlwind and now it’s finally great that football is starting.”
Ponder was asked if he feels like Aaron Rodgers, who was also drafted in the first round but spent three years waiting for his opportunity while behind Brett Favre with the Packers. Recent first-rounders (like Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez and Matt Ryan) have enjoyed early success after decades of rookie QB success being about 50/50.
Ponder said he can be both sides and, if the comparisons to Rodgers are being made, he hopes the comparison comes full circle.
“There’s an advantage to getting thrown in early and trying to get some playing time,” Ponder said. “That’s what everyone wants, but there’s an advantage to sitting back and waiting and learning from a guy like Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb. Obviously those guys are successful and you can learn something from them. I think it paid off for Aaron – a Super Bowl ring isn’t a bad deal. I’m looking forward to doing that here.”
The Vikings re-signed free agent defensive tackle Fred Evans Sunday. He reported to Mankato with the rest of his teammates. Details of the agreement were not immediately released, but he said it was a one-year contract.
As of Sunday, Kevin Williams has been yet to be informed by the league whether the four-game suspension levied on him and Pat Williams over the StarCaps incident in 2008 will be enforced for the first four games of the regular season. With the flurry of activity and recertification of the NFL Players Association, the league has plenty of issues on its plate this week. Expect an announcement to come within the next couple of weeks – both to officially inform Williams and to give the Vikings time to make plans for not having their Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the first month of the regular season.
There continue to be rumors that, despite the signing of Michael Jenkins, the Vikings may not be out of the running to sign free agent WR Braylon Edwards. He remains unsigned, won’t be returning to the Jets (who signed Plaxico Burress Sunday) and his options are beginning to dwindle.
Wide receiver James Jones, who was on the Vikings radar in their quest to bolster the wide receiver position, re-signed with the Packers Sunday.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.