FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011
Vikings First-Round Draft Pick Christian Ponder
What a moment for me. I want to personally thank Coach (Leslie) Frazier for bringing me on board and the Wilf family and Rick Spielman for believing in me, to be a part of this organization and I am so elated to be here right now. First time to Minnesota, I’m loving what I see. I’m enjoying every minute of this and I’m just extremely excited to be a Minnesota Viking and to be a part of this great organization and to get to work ASAP.
Q: What number will you wear?
A: Number seven I believe.
Q: What do you know about the Vikings?
A: I know a lot. I grew up watching the NFL. Obviously my dad played in the League for a little bit and the history with Brad Johnson who played quarterback at FSU (Florida State University). I know obviously Adrian Peterson, Sidney (Rice) and Percy Harvin who I have a history with him being at Florida and I was at Florida State and great team, great organization, a great fit for me.
Q: With the pieces there on offense, will that make it easier for you?
A: Oh yeah, my job’s easy. I just got to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson, throw the ball to Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. I mean, what do I have to do? They got to do all of the dirty work so it’s a great fit for me and it takes a lot of pressure off of me and I’m going to be loving it. I’ve never been around so much talent and again, it is such a great organization, a great team right now.
Q: Were you a little surprised at where you went in the draft?
A: I wasn’t. With how crazy the draft is, you never really know when your name is going to be called but I had been hearing some positive things leading up to the draft and I thought I put myself in a pretty good position working myself through the pre-draft process and had a great meeting with Coach (Leslie) Frazier and Coach (Bill) Musgrave and the whole staff that came down to Tallahassee for my private workout and I thought we made a great connection so when it came down to the pick, I was kind of hoping that it would happen.
Q: Have you had a chance to meet with coaches and have you gotten a playbook?
A: I’ve sat down with Coach (Bill) Musgrave a little bit and Coach (Craig) Johnson and we talked briefly about ball but haven’t really had time to do a whole lot and maybe we’ll talk a little more after this but there is a not a whole lot we can really do right now.
Q: What is it about (Bill) Musgrave’s system that makes you think you’re a good fit?
A: It’s funny, when we were talking, sitting in the meeting room down in Tallahassee we were going over a lot of the same concepts that he did, it was the same stuff we did at Florida State. I mean we ran a lot of the same plays, did a lot of the same pass protections and so it was very similar and that gives me a lot of confidence in coming into this role right now.
Q: Can you recap the process of how you ended up at FSU (Florida State University)?
A: My dad played at Florida State. He played in the early 80’s and played for Coach (Bobby) Bowden and it was a dream for me to go there and they extended an offer. I tried to keep my recruiting process open but when that offer came in it was hard to turn down and it was funny actually, my eighth grade year I went out to do a visit, my dad had a reunion with one of his teams and Coach (Bobby) Bowden actually grabbed my right arm and told me they could use this one day and ever since then I was dead set on getting there.
Q: Who else offered you a scholarship?
A: I had about 25 offers coming out. Florida State was probably the biggest. You know I was only one of those three star legacy players that wasn’t supposed to do anything at Florida State. But I really liked Georgia Tech, especially the academic background but it was hard to turn down Florida State.
Q: Were there moments when going through the 2010 season where you thought that you maybe should have left the year before?
A: I never had any regret in coming back. We were winning more games than I had since I had been at Florida State and winning cures all so it was a little frustrating dealing with injuries but that’s ball, so to make it to a game like the ACC Championship game and to make it to a game like the Chik-Fil-A Bowl, and to get that 10-win season is big and so I was definitely happy coming back. I know I didn’t have that productive of a year, yeah we won games but a lot of people look at the numbers so I knew that maybe my draft stock was hurt a little bit and I had some ground to make up and was dedicated to it and went out to Phoenix, Arizona the first day I could and got ready for the Senior Bowl and the combine and took full advantage of each opportunity I had and did pretty well.
Q: Do you feel like your smarts overshadow your athletic ability?
A: I think my intelligence is a big advantage for me and puts me ahead of the game but I agree and I feel like I’m a lot more athletic than people give me credit for. I feel like I can shake and bake a little bit. But I feel like I’m really the full package at a quarterback and I’m glad that Rick and Coach Frazier bought into me and brought me here.
Q: With the labor situation going on, what will you take from this visit at the facility and the meeting the coaches?
A: I’m trying to get as much ball talk in as possible and get a feel for what’s going on. It is tough, especially with the uncertainty. We have no idea what’s going to happen and I’m praying I’ll be back here in two weeks for mini-camp or whenever we’re allowed. We’ll see and we’ll deal with the issues as they come and go from there.
Q: What is it that you did on the field that makes people say you are one of the more pro-ready quarterbacks in this draft?
A: I was very involved. Jimbo Fisher who was our head coach was also our offensive coordinator and he put a lot of responsibility on us as a quarterback and with the mike calls on pass protections. We go up with two or three plays to the line to check to depending on what the defense showed me and made sure every run play we had it was run check so I had to make a lot of my own calls and get us into certain plays in certain looks and did a lot of stuff in gun and a lot of stuff under center so I think that put me in advantage of the other guys, having that preparation and doing it already at the college level.
Q: Do you come here expecting to be the starter?
A: The number one thing is that I have to earn my role. Wherever that may be. I am preparing myself like I’m going to be the starter but like I said, I have to earn that role. Obviously, Joe Webb is here and Rhett Bomar is on the roster. Guys that are here that are a step ahead of me. I have some ground to make up and whether I have to sit behind a guy for a couple games, for a season or for a couple seasons, whatever that role might be I will be fine with it but I will prepare myself as the starter. If I do get that role for the first game then I’ll be excited about it and I’ll be ready to roll.
Q: Who’s your agent?
A: Jimmy Sexton
Q: How important is it for you to step in and be a leader right away with guys like Steve Hutchinson and Adrian Peterson on your team?
A: I think it will be easier with guys like that. I know they are going to be helping me out and they are going to be taking pressure off of me and taking on more of that leadership role, but as a quarterback it obviously is a natural position of leadership. It’s going to be my job over the next couple of months to earn their respect, earn that role, and become the leader of this team.
Q: How do you feel about having the opportunity to be the team’s starter?
A: It’s exciting, it’s what you dream for, being a starter in the NFL. Again, there is a lot of work to be done to get to that point, and it really starts today.
Q: Do you embrace the expectations that come with being a first-round quarterback?
A: Yes, it is something I embrace. I don’t think anyone’s expectations match what I have for myself. I expect perfection, I am a perfectionist. If I make a mistake, or I’m not doing what 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 should expect as well.
Q: Yesterday, were you convinced that you would be a first-round pick?
A: In my mind I was. I never thought I wouldn’t be. I always thought that I deserved to be in this spot.
Q: Your selection has been criticized by fans and NFL analysts, what is your take on that?
A: Number one, I have to earn my respect, from the fans and from my teammates. There is a lot of uncertainty with any pick in the draft. I know that on my personal level, I’m going to put in my time to earn that respect and 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.
Q: What are some things that you have gained from your college experience?
A: I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity in my college career. A lot of ups and downs. It’s really helped me grow and mature as a quarterback, a leader of a team, and as a face of a university. I loved every minute of being at Florida State, and I wouldn’t be here where I am right now if the events I went through didn’t occur. So yeah, there are some things, where I had some low times there, but it definitely changed me as a quarterback and helped me to grow and mature.
Q: What do you know about Minnesota?
A: The state of Minnesota, you know it’s the first time I’ve been here. The thing I’m excited about is, I’m huge into fishing, and the land of 10,000 lakes is something I’m excited about. I’m going to enjoy my time here. I’ve been here for a short amount of time, but I’ve liked it so far.
FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011
Head Coach Leslie Frazier
I get the great pleasure of being able to introduce first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, Christian Ponder who I really feel like is going to be with us for a long time and really set a legacy as a quarterback that all of us remember for years and years to come and last night when we made that selection, it was something for me like just a relief that we got a guy who will solidify that position for years to come and I won’t have to come back each year at the draft and wonder about our quarterback situation for the future. So, it is an exciting time for me in my first year as a head football coach in the National Football League. The fact that we drafted a quarterback who I have a great deal of confidence in and really am looking forward to watching him mature as a quarterback along with my maturation as a head football coach so it should be a lot of fun for anybody who is a Minnesota Viking fan so without any further ado, Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings quarterback.
Post-Ponder Press Conference
You can see exactly what we were talking about. He is a guy who will do a great job in the huddle and in the locker room with the teammates he will have. We are really excited about the fact that he’s a Minnesota Viking and looking forward to watching him perform over the weeks, months and years to come.
Q: Will you give him a playbook to take home with him?
A: We do have some things that we want to give to him to take back with him. I know he had a chance to talk with Percy a little bit ago, as well. He’s going to take some information back with him but he’ll get the chance to work out together depending on what happens with this lockout. We’ll definitely put some things in his hands to take back with him
Q: Are you scrambling to get through everything with Christian because you don’t know how much time you will have with him?
A: You’re right, we don’t know how long this window will be open so we have to take advantage of every moment and try to get him the information that we think he’ll need to come back, whenever that is, with a working knowledge of what we’re trying to get accomplished. You do feel a sense of urgency around here about getting information out and we’ve done that with some other players as well, just trying to get some things in their hands.
Q: How tough has this gotten with the lockout?
A: The thing that I end up having to do, and the same thing I told our coaches, is we’ll get whatever the correct rules are from our ownership and from the League and based on that we’ll proceed accordingly. There are a lot of things we can’t control. We can’t control when the lockout is lifted or when it’s not lifted but when they tell us, like we have this window right now, we will take advantage of it and when it closes, we’ll move on to whatever our next plan is but there are things we just can’t control.
Q: If you can, will you have your rookie mini-camp next weekend?
A: We have talked about doing some things but we also have a plan if the lockout stays lifted, to move forward in some other areas. We have some contingency plans based on whatever we find out later on this week.
Q: What is the one thing with Christian that really made this decision the right one for the Vikings?
A: Beyond the fact that he has the physical ability that you look for in a quarterback, it is his character. It’s a big deal at the quarterback position especially when you have the talent that we have on our football team, particularly on the offensive side. You need a guy with strong character because if he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his ability, if he does not have the wherewithal to man up to a degree, he’ll get swallowed up because we have some tremendous talent on that side of the ball. I just felt like his character is going to get him through some of the tough days that you go through as a young quarterback in the NFL or even a veteran quarterback. That was probably the determining factor. Not just his physical talent but he is a very high character individual.
Q: Do you have an example, maybe from drawing things up on the board, that led you to think he might possibly be the guy?
A: We had the chance to visit with a number of quarterbacks going through this process and sitting down with him and going through some plays with him when Bill (Musgrave) and Craig (Johnson) had him on the board and seeing him process the information in comparison to the other quarterbacks then going back to the board and regurgitate it back to the coaches, I’m looking and going, “I don’t know if I could have done that.” It was impressive, the way he handled it and it made me realize that the situation we’re in with the uncertainty about this offseason, to have a guy with the physical talents that he has but also the intellect as well, will bode well for our football team. That was one thing but when we got to dinner he told us a story about some of his friends on campus and some of the friends he hung out with and you would be surprised. It’s not just the football players that Christian hangs with, he is a friend to others on campus as well and I think that’s a good thing because in the locker room, as a quarterback, you can’t just hang out with the offensive line or the running backs or just go stand in the corner and say, “I’m the quarterback of this team.” You have to mingle and get along with teammates. Just knowing how he is able to deal with people, I thought was a great thing if you’re going to be in that position. Those are just a couple things that really struck me.
Q: You have talked about Christian’s ability to mingle with other teammates, with the current labor situation, do you encourage him to reach out to teammates and try to build relationships with teammates now?
A: We have to leave that up to him. He’s got certain things he needs to prepare for. He has an idea based on (Offensive Coordinator) Bill (Musgrave) and (Quarterbacks Coach) Craig (Johnson) have talked to him about what he needs to work on. He’ll get those things taken care of, but if there are guys within close proximity like Percy (Harvin) will be, sure that would be a great opportunity for him to get a chance to work with some of his future teammates. But I don’t think he has to do anything out of the ordinary. It’s just such a fluid situation. It’s more important that he takes care of Christian right now and handles some of the things we’ve given him to go back with.
Q: Given where you took Christian, if you do go get a veteran quarterback as well, is that a very short term guy that would only start four or five games?
A: I hear that as well, as what we may or may not do. But for us, we are looking in the right now. We have three quarterbacks on our roster, and we have three guys we want to compete and find out who is going to be that guy to lead us against the San Diego Chargers. Not knowing what is going to happen with free agency or the League over the next few months or weeks to come, it’s just not an area we are willing to explore. Especially when we’ve got eight more picks today and tomorrow in the draft that we really want to concentrate on. It is kind of weird to talk about free agency on a day that we are going through the draft, but that’s the way this League is right now. But it’s something we will deal with down the line. But right now we are confident that we got the right guys on our roster to create the type of competition that will take our football team where we want to go.
Q: How do you feel about the rest of the draft?
A: I’m excited about the fact that there still are a lot of good football players on the board. We’ve got eight other picks to come. It’s a chance for us to really address some areas for our football team to create that competitiveness that we want on our team. I’m really excited about what’s on the board and looking forward to tonight and tomorrow as well. Just to get some more football players for our team
Q: How much did you talk today about reconfiguring your board after round one?
A: We talked quite a bit, and when we leave here we’re going to go talk some more. As we anticipate what other teams are going to do and what we need to do to improve our football team.
Q: Do you see Christian as the kind of guy that can win over skeptical fans quickly?
A: The most important thing for Christian and our football team is to do the things that we have to do to be successful. And if we do that as a team, and that’s the good thing about our game, it’s not about one player. Christian will have great support from our defense, from our special teams, the other players on our offense. If we do what we have to do as a team, those people that are concerned, will love what we have accomplished. They will cheer, and that’s our goal, to make sure they are cheering.
Q: Can you tell us what time you have spent with Christian and the process you have gone through to get to know him?
A: Between the Senior Bowl and watching tape, and trying to get to know him through other people that he’s worked with in college. I even called one of my former players; he doesn’t even know this, Corey Simon who I worked with in Philadelphia, just to get some background. I know Bob (Hagan) talked to Brad Johnson, and we went on and on. A lot of the time we spent with Christian himself, learning as much as we could about him and really that was all a part of us feeling confident that he was the right guy for us. So a lot of hours logged, but well worth it.
Q: What is the concern that Kevin Williams will be suspended for the first four games of the season?
A: We will have to wait and see. It’s always been kind of hanging over our heads regarding that. But we will operate business as usual and we’ll find out a little bit later on exactly what is going to happen.