Ponder seeks first-down improvements

Christian Ponder (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

Christian Ponder highlighted where he wants the Vikings to get better and where he needs to improve.

Players rarely give specifics when asked for the No. 1 thing they hope to improve on. But quarterback Christian Ponder did just that when asked for the one thing he wants to improve on most.

"For me and the offense, No. 1 is doing a lot better job on first down," Ponder said. "We want to be completing 75 percent of our passes on first down. I think we were low 60s, around 63 percent, last year.

"That's going to help us be so much better on third down and eventually points scored per game. I think it's important for me. I have to do a better job moving around in the pocket and not taking off so early. Get a better feel for the pocket and make better decisions. ...Just smarter decisions. Not trying to force the ball down the field. I think if we have ‘go' routes called and it's not open, to check it down. I think it comes down to patience and knowing your reads and finding the open guy. Football is not that hard of a game. You have to find the open guy and get the ball to him."

  • Coach Leslie Frazier is counting on Jasper Brinkley to come through as a first-year full-time starter at middle linebacker. It's a bit of a leap of faith because Brinkley is coming off major hip surgery that wiped out his entire 2011 season.

    "He's getting there mentally, but there are still some things that he's holding back on," Frazier said. "He's got to get to the point where he's got to let it go a little bit. It's still early. We've only had two practices and we'll see how he progresses. But we'll need him to let it go at some point."

  • Ponder has become a popular player among reporters in part because of a self-deprecating sense of humor.

    Near the end of one of his first OTA sessions, Ponder threw an odd and very ugly interception that went directly to defensive back Bobby Felder, an undrafted rookie from Nicholls State.

    After practice, Ponder brought the interception up on his own during the opening statement in his press conference.

    "You all probably saw the boneheaded mistake at the end," he said. "I tried to throw the ball away and didn't."

  • Defensive end Jared Allen remains the only player who hasn't shown up for any of the OTAs. He's not at odds with the team. He has a good relationship with Frazier. He just doesn't like OTAs, which, by the way, are voluntary. And when you're coming off a 22-sack season, coaches tend to overlook things.

  • Wide receiver Percy Harvin showed up for the start of OTAs last week. Because of a shoulder injury, he wasn't cleared to practice until this week. He practiced one day and then wasn't there the next.

    Frazier has voiced his excitement over the great turnout. Asked about Harvin missing a practice, Frazier said he wants Harvin to attend, but added, "It's voluntary."

    Linebacker Chad Greenway has also shown up for only one workout because he's dealing with what Frazier called a "serious family matter."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's just what the doctor ordered for the Viking offense. He's an explosive guy who can really adjust and adapt to the football. And it's really fun watching him after the catch, which is a skill he demonstrated for the whole league last year when he was with Cincinnati." - Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, when asked about free-agent acquisition Jerome Simpson.

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