Viking may look for veteran QB to serve as mentor
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Sports Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE -- Leslie Frazier gazed out the office window at the perfectly manicured practice fields at Minnesota Vikings headquarters, fields just waiting for some action.
"Sure wish we had our guys out there right now," Frazier said.
One in particular -- rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
The lockout has come at a most inopportune time for Frazier, who is starting his first full season as a head coach and is preparing for life without Brett Favre, who is not coming back whether he stays retired or not. Frazier has assembled a new offensive coaching staff that is itching to get going with Ponder, their first-round draft pick and quarterback of the future.
Just how soon that future gets started is out of Frazier's -- and Ponder's -- hands right now. The lockout prevents coaches from communicating with players, which means Ponder isn't able to get the head start he needs to get ready to start from day one.
The Vikings surprised some by drafting Ponder 12th overall out of Florida State, but Frazier is convinced he has the intelligence and talent to quickly take over the Vikings' offense. Fellow unproven youngsters Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar round out the current group of QBs on the roster, but that doesn't appear to bother Frazier right now.
"I think at quarterback I feel much better than I did before the draft," Frazier told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We could go to camp right now with the three guys we have, whereas before the draft it would have been dangerous."
If the lockout drags through the summer, that could change. Frazier said he would consider adding a veteran to serve as a mentor to the young guys before the season opener against San Diego.
"It's hard to determine right now because you can't be around Christian to introduce him to a large degree to our offense, so it's kind of up in the air," Frazier said. "If we didn't start football until late July, then you'd have to strongly consider bringing in a veteran guy. That would be hard to put Christian and Joe Webb out there under those circumstances, although Joe had limited exposure to that last season."
Webb, who was chosen in the sixth round last year and initially was going to play receiver before being switched full-time to quarterback, played extensively in the final three games of the season for the injured Favre. He's still viewed as a raw prospect, with Ponder the more polished player after four years in Florida State's pro-style offense.
Ponder played in an offense very similar to what new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave plans to install in Minnesota, and Frazier hopes that will make his transition to the NFL smoother than it might be for other quarterbacks in the rookie class.
"Really excited about him and just knowing that this game is not going to be too big for him at this level," Frazier said. "He played at a high level, played in a pro style offense. So many pluses in comparison to some of the kids you have to project coming from these spread offenses. There were a lot of knowns as opposed to unknowns in Christian's case."
Musgrave said during the draft that a veteran could add a lot to the quarterback room, providing guidance and tutelage to the three youngsters.
"Players not only learn from coaches, they also learn from their fellow players," Musgrave said. "So, it is important to have a veteran in that room, really at all positions."
If the lockout is lifted and the 2010 rules are put back in place, free agent options will include Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman, Billy Volek and Kerry Collins. Speculation has also linked the Vikings and Donovan McNabb, who has fallen out of favor but remains under contract with the Washington Redskins.
Frazier said the Vikings would be looking at a guy willing to be a mentor more than anything else, which would seem to rule out a player like McNabb who thinks he still has quality starting years left in the tank.
"We're not looking to bring in an aging veteran to be the face of the franchise for years to come," Frazier said. "Otherwise we probably wouldn't have drafted Christian.
"We've created what we think is the pattern to have our quarterback of the future. Now it's just a matter of do you need someone to help you mentor that young quarterback? And that's what we'll have to look at when we get back to football."
The Vikings drafted 10 players last weekend and Frazier said he was pleased that his first draft class addressed needs at quarterback, tight end, linebacker and offensive line. He said priorities when the free agent market opens will be at cornerback and defensive line.
Just how deep into the summer the Vikings will let the lockout go before deciding it is too late for Ponder to be ready to take over right away, Frazier wouldn't say.
"I don't think you put any dates on it," he said. "That would create a lot of stress in your conversations. We have a plan for the way we want things to unfold. We'll just see how it all plays out."