EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Entering his pivotal third season as the Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Christian Ponder knows his proving ground will be on the field as he tries to steer the team to another playoff appearance.
Ponder’s success, and future, rides on how he complements MVP running back Adrian Peterson and works with his new receiving weapons, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson this season. Ponder knows many are doubting him, and understands he hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt with his inconsistent play.
Recently, NFL.com released a ranking of the league’s starting quarterback and Ponder was ranked 29th. Earlier this offseason, former quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski had him 27th.
“I think in college and stuff I was definitely more in-tune to what the media says,” Ponder said Wednesday. “I think as I’ve gone through this whole process, I’ve learned more and more, either way, if it’s positive or negative, it’s not really beneficial. I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I think the 27th-ranked thing is probably rightfully so with how I’ve played. The good thing about that, that leaves me a lot of opportunity to improve and move up in the rankings.”
Here are five other highlights from Ponder’s weekly press conference with the local media as he begins a critical third year on Sunday at Detroit:
1) After looking at the preseason and what you guys were able to do, how much different do you expect things to be, not only with Adrian back there, but do you expect a little bit more to be unveiled in the passing game? Did you try and keep some things close to the vest and not put them on tape?
PONDER: Well, Adrian’s a big part of this offense. I think everyone knows that and he’s going to make a difference when he’s out there. I think every team kind of is pretty limited in what they do in the preseason, offense and defense, and we don’t want to show our cards too early. And we didn’t do a whole lot of game planning in the preseason, so this is different. We’re really game planning Detroit and show some different things that we’ve worked on in the preseason, but didn’t show in games and we’ll implement those into this game plan. I know (offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has) done a great job and everyone’s confident in the game plan that we’ve already had so far.
2) Does that put any extra pressure on you personally now that you have all the weapons, to know that the rest is up to you?
PONDER: No, I think it’s always been up to me, just like all the other 31 teams. For me, if anything, I think it takes less pressure because I know those guys are going to make plays. It’s my job just to get the ball to them and let them do their thing.
3) What have you seen from Jerome Simpson this preseason that was missing last year?
PONDER: Well I think he’s healthy. I think last year he battled the weird injury that he had, that had a pretty big effect on him, so I think that’s big. I think he’s playing with more confidence. He’s more comfortable in this offense. He knows more and more what he’s doing. And you can just tell, he’s having fun out there. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve liked about him since he became part of this team. He always has fun and he’s a guy that’s enjoyable to play with.
4) For you personally how the season ended last year, how hungry are you to get out there in Detroit? I know everyone knows it, but can you put into words what you’re feeling about what it’s like to be back out there?
PONDER: Well, I think this whole team is hungry to get out there. I think it’s been a long time since we put the pads up back in January. So, we’re eager to get out there. I’m eager to get out there and just play football again. We go through this whole preseason, all these practices to get out there and finally play. There’s nothing like playing a game. Again, to start out in an environment like Detroit, we know the crowd’s going to be really loud. It’s going to be a competitive environment, but I think that’s where we thrive. I think we have a lot of competitive players on this team, including myself and we’re excited for this challenge.
5) How beneficial was the preseason focus on the passing game, no carries for Adrian and just giving you time?
PONDER: It was big. We knew that during this preseason, this offseason, we wanted to continue the development of our passing game. And adding those new guys, it was important to establish that chemistry. It was important for us. Now we’ve just got to carry that on into this season. I think having Adrian back is only going to help our passing game, as well.