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Updated: July 18th, 2011 11:48am
Christian Ponder 'a little rusty' upon joining workouts on 'U' campus

Christian Ponder 'a little rusty' upon joining workouts on 'U' campus

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Christian Ponder planned to make only a cameo appearance at Larry Fitzgerald's group workout on the "U" campus Monday morning, then meet with his realtor.

That was until Fitzgerald told Ponder his search for a home probably could wait until after the day's throwing session.

"It was OK," Ponder said after putting his cleats back on, reentering the 90-plus degree heat and throwing several dozen passes to a group including new Minnesota Vikings teammates Kyle Rudolph and Jaymar Johnson.

"A little rusty (Monday). I think you all probably saw that. First time I've thrown in probably two weeks, since rookie symposium. I've been running around and (haven't) had time. It's good to get that out of me."

It would be tough to blame Ponder for the series of one-hoppers and misses he threw before settling in on Monday. The No. 12 overall pick in April's draft spent roughly 22 hours in a moving truck this past weekend, driving from Florida to Minneapolis by way of St. Louis with his dog and a friend.

"I've got to get my butt back in shape and get my arm back in shape," Ponder said. "But it was good to get out here, get the first day under my belt and (Tuesday) will be better."

Ponder spent substantial time in recent months working out at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., ironing out his mechanics and learning the Vikings' new playbook under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback and St. Paul native Chris Weinke.

He spent the past couple of weeks attending a family reunion, helping out at a passing camp hosted by the Manning brothers, house-hunting in the Twin Cities -- a trip that also included workouts with Vikings offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson and John Sullivan -- and then packing his belongings from his off-campus home near Florida State for the long drive north.

"It's a relief," Ponder said. "I've been stressed out about finally getting up here and getting settled. To finally be up here, it's good. I'm ready to get things started. Hopefully, this lockout ends soon, but who knows?"

The Vikings are tentatively scheduled to report to Mankato for training camp on July 31, but the NFL's resolved labor situation still has that up in the air. So, Ponder plans to work out with Fitzgerald, Rudolph and about 30 other players at the "U" for at least the rest of this week and perhaps beyond.

"We have had a couple opportunities (to work together), like down at IMG and now up here," said Rudolph, the tight end the Vikings drafted in the second round (43rd overall). "... It's awesome to get a little but of work in before we actually report."

In a normal year, Ponder probably would be waiting out a protracted contract negotiation at this stage. But no negotiations have been permitted during the lockout, and the next collective-bargaining agreement is expected to reduce the massive packages handed out to high draft picks as well as enhance "slotting" throughout the first round.

"I don't think it'll take long," Ponder said. "I don't know that there's much room for negotiations anymore after this whole rookie scale's going to be done. But it'll get done, it'll be done quickly and I want to be ready to go and get in as soon as possible. So, it won't be a problem."

Asked if he's disappointed about the anticipated drop in rookie compensation, Ponder said, "It's not too frustrating. From what I've seen, it won't be too bad. I heard 40 percent (reduction), but it's still a lot of money. I can deal with it. My goal is always to get the second contract anyways. That's when you make your most money. "

As for the house search, Ponder hoped to finalize something with his realtor by the end of the day. He's been staying in Rudolph's guest room since he got into town but is eager to get his own place as soon as possible, given what he's going to be putting himself through each morning.

"It's great," Ponder said. "They're pushing each other. It's good to get to know those guys. It's fun. It's kicking my butt, though."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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