Notebook: Geoff Schwartz trying to shape up, win Vikings guard job
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Geoff Schwartz breathed heavily after his post-practice conditioning work this week.
That's no surprise, considering how long it's been since the 25-year-old offensive lineman put his 6-foot-6, 331-pound body through the sort of workouts he's getting at the Minnesota Vikings' organized team activity practices.
"Just trying to get back in shape basically," Schwartz said. "I didn't run for so long that that's my biggest enemy right now."
It took more than seven months, from the hip surgery in August that landed Schwartz on injured reserve in Carolina until around the time he signed a one-year deal worth up to $1.5 million with the Vikings on March 21.
"Even then, when you start running again, it's kind of light stuff," Schwartz said. "It took until maybe the middle of April to finally start doing full-speed, offensive line-type drills."
Now Schwartz is in competition for a starting job at right guard with Brandon Fusco, a sixth-round pick (172nd overall) in last year's draft who has been taking the bulk of first-team reps in OTAs.
The Panthers drafted Schwartz as a tackle out of the University of Oregon in the seventh round (241st overall) in 2008 and didn't move him to right guard until the bye week in 2010. The website ProFootballFocus.com charted Schwartz playing 705 snaps there and ranked him 15th among all guards.
If Schwartz has an advantage come training camp, it's not only experience -- Fusco played just 25 snaps on offense as a rookie -- but the fact he started 19 games over the 2009 and '10 seasons in Carolina, where now-Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was the coordinator.
"It's very similar to when Jeff was doing it (in Carolina) as the O.C.," Schwartz said of the Vikings' blocking schemes. "I really like the concepts and it's stuff I do well."
The Vikings honored quarterback Christian Ponder on Wednesday as their Vikings Children's Fund Rookie of the Year -- a newly created award to recognize "the member of the previous rookie class that best represented himself and the franchise on and off the field."
Coach Leslie Frazier said he was surprised to learn the Vikings didn't already have such an award and a discussion with owners Zygi and Mark Wilf made it a reality.
"Really, it puts the spotlight on what they've done on the field, but also what they're doing off the field," Frazier said, shortly before heading to the tee box at the team's annual golf tournament at Rush Creek to benefit the Vikings Children's Fund.
"So, it's a combination of the two, which, hopefully, will increase the guys having a willingness to get out in the community and support our community. That's a big deal."
A first-round pick (12th overall), Ponder replaced veteran Donovan McNabb as the Vikings' starting quarterback for the final 10 games of last season. He finished 158-of-291 passing (54.3%) for 1,853 yards, 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 70.1 rating.
Asked what part of his community work stands out, Ponder said his time with the Special Olympics and the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital, which received a $5,000 donation in Ponder's name as part of the new award.
"I didn't really expect it to happen, but it's awesome," Ponder said. "It's a really good feeling. Obviously, I had a lot of fun last year but had a lot of things to improve upon. But just knowing that the coaches and the players are behind me a hundred percent is awesome. I really feel honored and humbled."
Established in 1978, the Vikings Children's Fund has raised nearly $10 million, with more than $5 million supporting research at the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics.
• The Vikings were scheduled to wrap up their OTAs on Thursday, then reconvene for the mandatory three-day minicamp next week. "You definitely want to end on a high note," Ponder said. "And I have, and I've gotten better every day and I feel a lot more comfortable in what I'm doing. It goes back to making better decisions, better reads, knowing where guys are at, and I'm getting there. I feel so much more than I was last year and than I was the first OTA."
• Former Vikings C Jon Cooper, who was released after the team's first game last season, signed with Tennessee.