Christian Ponder undeterred by periodic struggles this offseason
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder admitted after the Minnesota Vikings' final minicamp practice on Thursday he had some poor outings and bad throws in his second full NFL offseason.
But Ponder said making those mistakes now only help, not hurt, his progression.
"I think you learn most from those bad days," Ponder said. "As an offense, we basically put in our whole offense plus some. Tried a bunch of new stuff, saw what sticks and what doesn't."
Entering the no-excuses third year for a quarterback, Ponder toyed with new additions Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, fought with his old inaccuracies and flashed the deep ball a little in limited workouts this offseason.
Put it all together, and Ponder said the intermediate-to-deep passing game is a puzzle unsolved.
"As an offense, we'll continue to find our identity as we play more games in the season," Ponder said. "Obviously, having Adrian (Peterson) out there, you want to establish the run. That's always been our mindset.
"We'll continue to develop the passing game. We know we need more yards in the air, more big plays in the air. We'll see what works."
Ponder struggled at times in organized team activities open to reporters -- particularly on June 11, when he completed 8-of-18 throws with three interceptions.
But Ponder looked the sharpest in three days of mandatory minicamp this week, where he completed 29-of-42 passes in team drills (11-on-11), with only one interception to Josh Robinson on an underthrown pass for John Carlson.
"I think he's more comfortable," Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "I think this is his second orthodox offseason. He didn't have one initially after he was drafted (because of the NFL lockout in 2011), so there are much fewer unknowns for him at this stage even than there were a year ago. He knows more of what to expect and let himself go a little bit and not be so guarded."
Ponder and Musgrave both pointed to two areas -- decision-making and accuracy - that the young quarterback is targeting for improvement in order to take the necessary step forward in his third year.
"We always want to be accurate and we're always working on our feet in the quarterback room," Musgrave said. "His decision-making we're assessing everyday with all these competitive periods. It's been good."
The Vikings will take five weeks off before reporting to training camp on July 25.
"Me and my wife (Samantha) will have some much deserved time to spend going on vacation," Ponder said. "But like I said before, you have to have the mindset that football is right around the corner. I think we're in a good place heading into training camp."
Ponder looks to carry over from one of his best career performances -- the 2012 season-finale against Green Bay (234 passing yards, three touchdowns, career-high 120.2 rating) -- despite suffering a deep triceps bruise in the second quarter of that game that kept him out of the playoff game.
New pieces to the puzzle, including Jennings and Patterson, hope to stretch defenses for Ponder, who had limited downfield options in his first full season as starting quarterback.
Jennings said Wednesday he "loved" Ponder's demeanor and personality on the field. Coach Leslie Frazier also praised Ponder's improved leadership.
But Frazier insisted there were also tangible improvements from Ponder this offseason.
"Some of the things he's done in these practices kind of leads me to believe, along with our staff, that he's grown a lot in that area of making better decision with the football," Frazier said, "which should in turn help us down the line."