Notebook: 'I have to earn my respect,' top pick Christian Ponder says
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder never had set foot in Minnesota until Friday morning. He doesn't even own a winter coat.
Other than that, the Texas native (by way of Florida State) says he's prepared to be the new face of a Vikings franchise that put Ponder at the heart of its future plans by drafting him No. 12 overall.
"I don't think anyone else's expectations match what I have for myself," Ponder said during his introductory media conference on Friday afternoon at Winter Park.
"I expect perfection. I really am a perfectionist ... When I make a mistake or not perform as well as I should, I'm going to put in my time to correct it. I'm an extreme competitor and I expect to be the best, and that's what everyone else should expect as well."
High expectations are inevitable for Ponder, who became only the third quarterback drafted in the first round over the Vikings' 50 seasons. The pick was met with boos and catcalls from fans at the team's draft party, as well as skepticism from some national analysts who questioned whether he'd been selected too soon.
That included a scathing review from former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who went on ESPN Radio to blast Ponder's performance under pressure and called the selection "a major, major whiff."
"The great quarterbacks are as accurate going to two, three and four (options) as they are to No. 1 when you get No. 1 open," Dilfer said. "Christian Ponder, as soon as you get to two or three and there are people running, the ball is darting, it's high, it's all over the place. The reason is he plays with a lot of anxiety. Do you want your quarterback in the NFL to play with a lot of anxiety?"
Ponder couldn't have appeared less anxious on Friday as he smiled his way through a series of media interviews. Multiple Vikings coaches praised Ponder's ability to get along with every clique of teammates.
His laidback personality was on display as he cracked jokes about low expectations when he arrived at Florida State -- "I was only one of those 'three-star legacy players' that wasn't supposed to do anything" -- his "shake and bake" mobility and the new purple tie he wore hours after buying his entire ensemble at the airport.
Asked how he takes criticism, Ponder said, "I have to earn my respect -- from the fans, from my teammates. There's a lot of uncertainty with any pick in the draft, so I know that my personal level is I'm going to put in my time to earn that respect and I'm going to do what I have to do. I know what comes with this role, and I'm going to prepare myself for it and I'll be fine."
One common criticism leveled against Ponder during the pre-draft process was questionable strength and accuracy on deep throws.
His old coach and one of his new ones dismissed that as a concern.
"I don't remember it being a question," Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We put each quarterback that we worked out through the same paces, through the same routine so we could compare and contrast. He was right up there with the top guys in terms of arm strength and accuracy."
Ponder didn't have a completion longer than 44 yards as a senior in 2010, when he played through an upper-forearm injury that required weekly draining and postseason clean-up surgery.
But Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher echoed Ponder's proclamation that he's 100% healthy -- "There's no problem with his arm," Fisher said in a conference call -- and blamed the lack of shots downfield on protection issues.
"I think you're going to be really surprised at his arm talent and his accuracy," Fisher said. "He's going to make good decisions and get the ball to where it has to go."
For months, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said he wanted to recoup the third-round pick the Vikings squandered in an October trade for Randy Moss.
It didn't happen. The Vikings stuck with their one pick on the draft's second day, taking Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in Round 2 (No. 43 overall), and enter the final day with seven selections remaining.
The Vikings have one pick in the fourth round (No. 106) and two each in the fifth (Nos. 139 and 150), sixth (Nos. 172 and 200) and seventh (Nos. 215 and 236).
And that 74th overall selection the Vikings sent to New England for Moss? The Patriots pulled a surprise by using it to select Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who slid to the third round largely because of character concerns.
• As expected, Ponder confirmed he plans to wear No. 7. That number will be available because Tarvaris Jackson, who had worn it the past five seasons, is set to become a free agent and won't be back.
• Frazier steered around a question about DT Kevin Williams, who is expected to serve a four-game suspension after a final appeal was rejected in the long-running StarCaps anti-doping case. "Well, we'll have to wait and see," Frazier said. "It's always been kind of hanging over our heads regarding that. But I think we'll operate business as usual and we'll find out a little bit later on exactly what's going to happen." Teammate Pat Williams also faces a four-game ban, but he is headed for free agency and not expected to return.
• Spielman wouldn't say whether the Vikings considered using their second-round pick on Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, who was a projected top-five pick before concerns about a knee injury dropped him to Tampa Bay at No. 51 overall. "I'm not going to tell you what Bowers is or why he's falling," Spielman said. "You guys can figure that out."
• Despite the return of the lockout, the Vikings plan to bring in Rudolph on Saturday for "media and marketing purposes only," Spielman said. That's permissible under the NFL's lockout guidelines until the draft ends on Saturday afternoon.