Vikings' Ponder had to ditch a throwing hitch

Christian Ponder (Scott Boehm/Getty)

Rookie QB Christian Ponder worked on changing his throwing motion between the time he was drafted and the time he showed up for training camp after a hitch in his motion was detected during his time at IMG. See what Ponder and Chris Weinke, the mechanic for the Ponder's motor, said about how he got it and what was causing it.

Christian Ponder has a serviceable NFL arm, probably better than what he was given credit for early in the draft evaluation process, but his delivery also changed thanks to an astute find during the summer by another Florida State quarterback.

While Ponder benefitted from offseason tutoring on the Vikings' offense from Chris Weinke down at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., he was also the benefactor when Weinke discovered a hitch in Ponder's throwing motion. In the NFL "game of inches," that delay between the decision to throw and releasing the ball could be the difference between completions and interceptions.

"I started dropping the ball down, which probably had to do with my arm injury that I had my senior year," Ponder said. "We saw that on film. He filmed everything, which was great. Everything we did he filmed, saw that and worked on it."

Ponder dealt with a variety of shoulder and arm issues during his time at Florida State, but a bursa sac in his throwing arm that continued fill up with fluid was especially problematic. He had it drained and played through the injury, but it is one of the attributed factors to Ponder having a better junior season than senior year at Florida State.

When he showed up in May to begin working with Weinke, the director of the IMG Madden Football Academy notice a flaw in Ponder's throwing motion.

"When he first showed up, just from a mechanical standpoint, I felt like he had a little hitch in his delivery, which wasn't allowing him to get rid of the ball as quick as he's going to have to to be successful at the next level," Weinke said. "I worked a lot with him on the pre-pass position, just getting the ball out of his hands. Mechanical things with his feet and shoulders and things like that. He showed me that he's coachable. He was able to make those adjustments."

Ponder said there was no doubt the hitch when he saw it on film, and he was perfectly willing to work on ridding himself of it. Weinke said there were no "major overhauls mechanically," rather minor tweaks.

"At the end of the day, any time you're changing your mechanics, the first thing that suffers is your accuracy," Weinke said. "I think the more time he spends working on these little things, the more comfortable he'll be. At the end of the day, his accuracy will continue to improve."

Ponder doesn't think he had the hitch that long, probably less than a year of throwing the ball to compensate for tenderness in his arm. Because it wasn't a career-long flaw and because there was no pressure to correct it with a game coming the next week, he was able to overcome the issue without trepidation.

"I had probably been doing it for eight months or so, so it wasn't hard to get rid of it, especially when you saw it on film and how bad it was. I was just dropping the ball and making a loop in my throwing motion. That's never good," he said.

"I don't think I was really throwing the ball that bad. It was just an efficiency thing. It was just good to correct."

While Weinke was able to work on Ponder's mechanics and was instrumental in increasing his knowledge of the offense – something that surprised and impressed Vikings coaches when they first started working with Ponder in training camp – there was little need to work on the quarterback's learning ability, approach to the game or emotional state. In those regards, Ponder was about as prepared and mature as a rookie could be.

"He carries a certain charisma about him that exudes confidence. In my opinion, he's a natural leader. I think people gravitate towards him," Weinke said. "Most importantly, he enjoys playing the game. He's a fierce competitor. I think the way he's wired is perfect for that position because he doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. His actions speak for him. That's what you want out of young quarterback, to go in there and gain some respect by showing people what you can do, not telling people what you do. The guy just has a lot of fun. I think that carries over into the team and hopefully that rallies the team."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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