WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2012
Vikings Quarterback Christian Ponder
This is exciting. The atmosphere right now in this building is ecstatic. Everyone’s excited that it’s the first week of the regular season, finally, and to kick off the 2012 season. We have, and especially myself, been waiting for this since January 1st when that Chicago game ended. I was looking forward to finally getting out here and through all the OTA’s and preseason, we put in so much hard work. There’s no better time of the year than right now to kick off football season and we’re excited we are opening up at home. It’s the first time since 2007 that the Vikings have opened up at home. We’re excited to set the tone for the rest of the season and I was so impressed last year with our home crowd and it creates such a great atmosphere in the Metrodome. We’re looking to start in the right manner in the first game this Sunday and we have a great opponent in Jacksonville. They have a great defense and it’s going to be a tough challenge for us as an offense and to see where we’re at for game one. It’s a starting point for us this season to set the tone and to reach the goals that we have.
Q: What concerns you the most entering the first game?
A: Obviously, we want to get out there and play well. I don’t know if we have any concerns. We’re going out there with confidence in our abilities and what we can do. We know this game is important and we need to set the tone for the rest of the year and go out and play well, but you don’t really want to have any concerns, you have to be fully confident in what you’re doing as a team.
Q: How does going through a season like last year change your approach from year one to year two?
A: Last year was obviously a crazy year, an interesting year, 3-13 is something you want to improve upon, but I think that going into this year it just awakens me to put so much more time and effort into what I’m doing. There’s a lot for me to improve upon from last year and I have to put in the effort to do it and change those things. I think it’s important for us to start out on the right foot and set the tone for the rest of the season and build upon a 3-13 year we had last year.
Q: How big was it for you to have the same system in place throughout the entire year?
A: Very big. Not only for my comfort level of being in the same offense, but also to have that comfort level, to have that communication, with [Bill] Musgrave and coach [Craig] Johnson and that’s huge. We’ve grown in our relationship a whole lot and we’re able to communicate about things and talk about certain plays and talk about what I like and have some input on some of the things we’re doing. It creates just a whole different atmosphere and confidence between myself and the coaching staff. I’m glad I went through what happened last year and I think that being in the same offense is only going to help myself and the rest of the guys that are a part of it.
Q: How much different is the vibe in the locker room with such a young team?
A: It’s different. Every year there’s a different vibe. There’s always going to be new faces no matter where you are. The cool thing is that it is a young team and we have a chance to be together for awhile and we have a lot of young players that are ready to go out and make a first impression and do well and make a name for themselves. That’s exciting. We’re excited and we have a lot of guys that can go out and make big plays and make a name for themselves and it’ll be cool to see. This is the first year for us to be together and hopefully it’ll be that same way in 10 years.
Q: How much are you a believer that a young quarterback has to go through some growing pains?
A: I think that up to a point you accept it. I know there’s a lot for me to learn as a quarterback and there’s a lot for me to grow, but I don’t want to make mistakes. I don’t expect myself to make mistakes ever. I do know and I do realize that even the greatest make mistakes at times and those are just learning moments that you have to learn from and grow from. I expect to have a lot of improvement on what I did last year.
Q: Where is your confidence now compared to coming out of your last game?
A: It has changed a lot, just having full confidence in this offense which comes from that comfort level of realizing and knowing what I’m doing. I put in a lot of time this offseason to get better and learn from those mistakes and build up that confidence. It helps when Rick Spielman is adding pieces around me, that shows that he has confidence in me to build around me. When others show confidence in you, that just keeps building it. I think this year is going to be a lot better than last year, especially for me personally, and it starts this week.
Q: What has been the focal point in the last week and a half of practice?
A: Obviously, there is a lot of improvements that we need to make. The thing that we’ve been talking about is execution. Coach Musgrave has put a lot on our plate but we just have to execute what we’re doing and do the ordinary things extraordinary. Just going back and refining our technique. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on our technique and our fundamentals. That’s what you start with, you start with a base and build on top of that and that’s what we’re doing. We’re spending a lot of time getting ready for this first game.
Q: How much extra time with John Carlson have you put in to regain that chemistry?
A: We have put in some time. He’s been very adamant about it and outgoing and not only trying to get in shape, but catching balls. We stayed after practice on Monday as well. He’s awesome and he’s going to do a great job. He’s trying to make up some time but he’s going to be completely fine once he gets in there. He is a heck of a player and he’s going to have a good year and really complement Kyle Rudolph.
Q: Have you seen anything that suggests Kyle Rudolph won’t have a good year?
A: No, he’s really impressed me in the preseason and in OTA’s. I think everyone has been impressed by him. I’m so comfortable with him, we have such great chemistry but you never know, injuries or something could happen, but we expect him to do well.
Q: How much have you watched Blaine Gabbert last year?
A: I didn’t watch him a whole lot. We didn’t play any similar teams so I didn’t see him on film; I didn’t pay much attention to him.
Q: You and Blaine Gabbert were in similar situations last year, anything you saw remind you of what you were going through?
A: It’s obvious that neither one of us had as good of years as we wanted to have. We are friends, we both trained together for the combine two years ago and have kind of hung out and talked to each other since. I think we’re both competitors and both confident in our abilities and we’re looking to bounce back from last year. I saw some stats from his preseason, he had a great preseason and he looks like he’s ready to go. Last year is probably a year we wish we would have done better but we both accept it and know that it’s going to make us better.
Q: Are you happy you are in the era where you were thrown in the fire rather than sit on the bench for five years?
A: Yeah, I guess both of us kind of snuck in towards the middle of the season. I don’t think he started from the very beginning. It was important for me to get thrown in and I would much rather learn from being out there and doing it rather than sitting on the sidelines. Now both of us, going through the OTAs and getting that time as the starting quarterback is really going to benefit us.
Q: What do you want your identity to be as a NFL quarterback?
A: Ultimately you want to be tagged with a successful career and winning games. For me, I just need to be efficient, be a smart player. Being a quarterback really boils down to two things, decision making and accuracy. Do you know where you’re supposed to go with the ball and are you accurate with it? I would love if 15 years down the road people look back and say that I was an accurate quarterback that made the right decisions and my team was successful because of it.
Q: With a young team and coming off last season, how much more important is it to get off to a good start?
A: Regardless of whether we were picked to win the NFC North or not, I think it’s always important to start off with a great start, it really sets the tone for the rest of the year. Obviously, we lost the first couple last year and we ended up going 3-13. We don’t want that to happen. We’re not going to put extra pressure on ourselves. We expect to go out, no matter what Sunday it is, and win and do well. I think it is important for us to get out there and start well and set the tone for the rest of the year.
Q: How hard was it to get confidence back last year?
A: I blame a lot of what happened last year on myself, it really didn’t have to do with what other players were doing. I was making bad mistakes and dumb decisions and I could have done a better job of helping our team turn around and play better and I didn’t. I played poorly and it was a situation that I didn’t help.
Q: Does having a younger team make it easier for you in a leadership role?
A: Yeah I think it does. It’s a lot easier to gel with someone who is around your age and has the same experience level and be able to communicate those things. The good thing is that we have a lot of veteran leadership as well between Jared [Allen], Kevin Williams, John Sullivan and Charlie Johnson. There is just a great atmosphere and the communication level between everybody on this team is really going to help out. Leadership is really important in the NFL or any team that you’re on regardless of the level. There are some guys that are really stepping up and doing a great job.
Q: What is the comfort level amongst the players with having replacement officials?
A: It’s something we can’t control. That’s one thing we’ve always talked about and been taught as a young athlete that you can only control what you can control. That’s out of our hands, we can’t do anything about it and we just have to go out and play. If something is called or if something happens, we have to deal with it and move on, you can’t worry about it. This game is such a mental game that if you’re focused on the referees and not focused on what you’re doing, that’s not a good situation.