Bigger Christian Ponder says Vikings' chemistry, efficiency improved
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder doesn't believe in a sophomore slump. Or at least, he said, this year couldn't be much worse than last year.
The second-year quarterback addressed the media on the final day of the Vikings' mandatory minicamp on Thursday and said after 10 OTAs and three days of minicamp, he feels like he and his receivers have really tightened the screws.
"I think we built a ton of chemistry, especially with Jerome (Simpson)," Ponder said. "I thought what we did together was great. Especially with (rookies) Jarius (Wright) and Greg Childs, those new guys, and all those new guys that were around us. I think we've all learned a lot."
The third and final full practice of minicamp focused on red-zone work, and Ponder had his share of overthrows, particularly in the corner of the end zone.
But he did hit tight end John Carlson for another touchdown pass over the middle, and on the first play in the red-zone drill, Ponder led rookie Jarius Wright down the right side on a fly route for a 25-yard score.
"I think for me the biggest improvement I saw was picking up blitzes and learning how to do that and recognizing things a lot better," Ponder said. "I think the game has really slowed down in just the 10 OTAs and just the three days of minicamp."
Among the focuses was improving his completion percentage on first and second downs, with a goal of 75%. At last check, Ponder said, "we were at like 73 percent and it's only gotten better since."
Ponder also has put on some weight -- perhaps a response to the way he got beat up in his rookie season. He entered the offseason around 212 pounds, now is up to around 233 and hopes to be just under 230 for the start of training camp on July 27 in Mankato.
"I've gotten bigger. I'm stronger. I'll try to keep my flexibility," Ponder said. "There's a lot of different things we can do flexibility-wise with the yoga. Just trying to keep my body in the right condition and getting stronger."
"If something were to happen to Christian because of injury, we feel like we have a capable backup in Joe," Frazier said. "But there's no competition as to Joe has to do this to beat out Christian. Christian, it's his job. We're trusting that he's going to be the guy to lead us to where we want to go this next season. We think we have a capable guy."
Ponder plans to go on vacation for about a week, first to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and then to Disney World in Orlando, where he'll spend time with his 3-year-old niece.
He also hopes to get together to throw with receiver Percy Harvin in Florida and will participate in Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald's annual workouts at the "U" next month before reporting to camp.
"It's been such a tremendous help going through not only the first part of the classroom work before OTA's started and now minicamp," Ponder said. "I think we really put in a lot of hard work that's really going to transition over to heading into Mankato and I think we're going to have a lot better year than people expect us."