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Updated: April 29th, 2011 5:45pm
Rookie could start, but Vikings need a veteran QB, Bill Musgrave says

Rookie could start, but Vikings need a veteran QB, Bill Musgrave says

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Bill Musgrave thinks the Minnesota Vikings still need a veteran quarterback to fill out the roster.

That doesn't mean the Vikings' new offensive coordinator is ruling out Christian Ponder winning the starting job before the season opener on Sept. 11 at San Diego.

"I think he's definitely got a chance to," Musgrave said on Friday, a day after the Vikings selected the former Florida State standout with the 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

"We're going to throw him in the mix and we feel awfully good about our quarterback room with Joe Webb, with the addition of Christian, Rhett Bomar is going to be in that room and we'll add a fourth one at some point. So, we feel good about that nucleus, I know that."

The fourth quarterback likely will be a veteran -- "that balances out a position," Musgrave said -- and rumors are sure to fly about Donovan McNabb and others whenever the NFL finally restarts transactions. But Ponder clearly had made a strong impression on his new offensive coordinator and others even before he first stepped through the doors of Winter Park on Friday morning.

Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson both were part of the contingent who put Ponder through a workout on March 29 in Tallahassee -- one of several stops on a tour that included trips to see Auburn's Cam Newton, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Washington's Jake Locker, among others.

"He came across as awfully sharp," Musgrave said. "I think the more we got around him, the more we realized he was a fantastic athlete too."

Running an offense that featured many of the same plays and passing concepts Musgrave plans to install surely doesn't hurt Ponder's chances for playing sooner than later.

"We were very multiple," Ponder said. "We could spread it out to four wides, two tight ends, two backs. We could do it all. The thing that is awesome about what Musgrave was doing is a lot of the plays, the passing concepts -- that stuff is very similar. Even how we call plays. The pass protections are very similar in what we called them and the formations."

The Vikings also liked the way Ponder's low-key personality played with his Seminoles teammates.

"One of the best things that I felt like, after we left Tallahassee, is how he fit in with the
different crowds on the team," Johnson said. "As coaches, all of them had that as a strength of him. When you talk with him, you get a chance to be with him, he can talk to linemen, offense, defense, DBs and equipment guy, and he's comfortable in all settings. I think you're going to find that he's going to be able to have a lot of people rally around his cause."

Of course, how much time Ponder has to rally people as a rookie depends on how the NFL's labor situation shakes out. He's known for his intelligence, but a protracted work stoppage surely wouldn't help Ponder adjust to the speed of the NFL game.

"My goal is to start right away," Ponder said. "I think that's anyone's goal. I'm going to prepare myself that way. It's really what I do leading up to that point that is going to determine my success rate. I'm going to do everything possible under the circumstances to get to that point."

And if the labor situation isn't resolved until August, would the rookie still have a shot?

"Well, it just provides another factor to consider," Musgrave said. "But no matter what happens, we're confident he'll be able to hit the ground running and really the rest of our offense, because we are going to be talking about a relatively new system."

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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