NFL: Vikings’ Christian Ponder balancing highs at home, lows at workplace
MANKATO — Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder doesn’t deny it’s been tough being relegated to third string. But he said Wednesday that it was good timing what happened last month.
Ponder’s wife, Samantha, gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Bowden Sainte-Claire. She was named after the legendary Bobby Bowden, Ponder’s former coach at Florida State.
“Yeah, it is tough,” Ponder said about being third team, a move that was put in writing when Minnesota’s first depth chart was released Tuesday. “It’s tough not getting reps in practice. I’m a competitor. You want to be the guy who is playing and starting.
“Although I love football and I love playing, to get a picture (from his wife) of my daughter smiling, it makes me smile after practice and it does put things in perspective that football is not everything. So it feels like it came at the right time.”
Bowden Sainte-Claire, born July 2, has been to Vikings training camp. Her mother, an ESPN broadcaster, wheels her around next to the fields in a carriage.
Ponder, the No. 12 pick in the 2011 draft, started more games than any other Minnesota quarterback in each of the past three years. He lost his job late last season to Matt Cassel, the current No. 1, and the Vikings in May drafted Teddy Bridgewater, the current No. 2.
Ponder said he’s trying to make the best of the situation. He expects to get some work in the second half of Friday’s preseason opener against Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I understand what my spot is,” Ponder said. “And as the third quarterback, there’s a lot of responsibility. I’ve got to be prepared. I’m not getting as many reps as the other guys, but you always have to be prepared.
“I’m learning from (offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner) about why we do certain things and how we attack certain defenses. They have a lot of football knowledge, and this is going to help me out in the long run.”
But does Ponder believe he will still be with Minnesota when the regular season opens Sept. 7?
“I assume that I’ll be here,” Ponder said. “I’m preparing that way. If something happens, then I’ll deal with it when it comes.”
When Ponder was asked whether he would like to be traded, he said that’s up to the Vikings.
“It’s not my call,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the front office’s call on what they’re going to do. We’ve kept three quarterbacks historically. That’s my expectations, but who knows?”
Ponder confirmed his $1.76 million contract for 2014 is fully guaranteed. Some believe that’s the only thing keeping him in Minnesota.
“It’s fully guaranteed, and I’m still here, and if something is going to happen, then it’s going to happen,” said Ponder, a free agent after the season. “I’m focused on just getting better. … It hurts when you’re not playing, but I do feel like it’s going to make it better in the long run.”
First-year Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said that he likes Ponder and that he “works hard.” Zimmer said somebody has to be the No. 3 quarterback, but it “doesn’t mean that’s where he’s going to end up.”
Ponder also said Wednesday that it was his wife’s idea to name their baby after Bowden.
“It was her call,” Ponder said. “She was the one who came up with it. I’m not as creative. I’m sure everybody assumes it was my doing, but it was her idea. Her mom grew up in Florida, so I think she had an affinity for Florida State at some point. And Sam is strong in her faith, and Coach Bowden is the same way, and there’s a lot of respect there.”
For now, the plan is for Samantha Ponder to continue to wheel Bowden Sainte-Claire around the practice fields. She said she doesn’t have to return to her duties at ESPN for more than another week.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.