EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder is still on the Minnesota Vikings' roster, working out at the team's voluntary minicamp this week in the same No. 7 jersey he has worn for the past three seasons. But in many ways, he is more on the periphery of the team's plans than he has been since the Vikings drafted him 12th overall in 2011.
The team gave Matt Cassel a new two-year deal in March, effectively slotting him above Ponder on the depth chart. The Vikings have spent the better part of the offseason evaluating the quarterbacks they might take in the draft next weekend. They have not, Ponder said, discussed the possibility of picking up his fifth-year option, which would be guaranteed for 2015 only in the case of injury but would pay him just over $9.6 million if he did get hurt.
"Honestly, I'm not thinking about it," Ponder said. "Plus, the option doesn't really mean much. They can cut me without anything after this year so it doesn't matter."
However marginalized Ponder appears to be at this point, he is coming to work with the hope he can pick up offensive coordinator Norv Turner's system and fare well enough to reclaim the starting job that seems slated for Cassel. He said he hoped the Vikings would come to the conclusion they have enough at quarterback not to take one in the first round, characterized the quarterback situation as a competition and thought learning from Turner would help him.
Asked what's gone wrong in his time with the Vikings so far, Ponder said, "Turnovers. Turnovers were the biggest thing, and that cost us quite a few games. Just some dumb decisions. That's been kind of the story of the past three years."
Ponder took second-team snaps during Wednesday's workout and seems like he'll be in that position barring an injury or major change to Minnesota's thinking. His $1.76 million base salary is guaranteed for 2014, so the only way he wouldn't be with the Vikings is if they were to trade him or decide to absorb $3.2 million in dead money (counting Ponder's signing bonus proration) by cutting the quarterback.
With a new coaching staff, Ponder said he has a "clean slate" and hopes he will be able to use it to rewrite a past that currently has him on the fringes in Minnesota.
"It was disappointing how the year went, but honestly, when I left, it was more motivation than anything," he said. "I think I really worked hard this offseason, more than I have in the past, and I didn't want it to happen again. I knew there was going to be a competition to play, and I tried to do my best to prepare."