New dad Ponder readies for different camp

MINNEAPOLIS -- As Christian Ponder begins his fourth training camp with the Minnesota Vikings, there's less guaranteed to the quarterback than at any point since the team made him the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Ponder will head to Mankato, Minnesota, as the third member of an open quarterback competition that will quite possibly end with him standing on the bench. The number of snaps given to veteran Matt Cassel and first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp far outpaced the number given to Ponder, and even the quarterback sounded unsure of how much time he'd get when the Vikings begin practice later this week.

"It's a way to learn from these coaches, and watching Matt and Teddy," Ponder said Tuesday after working out with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, among others. "I don't know how many reps I'm going to get, but I'm going to try to take advantage of them and play as well as I can. You've always got to be prepared."

Ponder's time as the Vikings' starting quarterback could well be over, but his outlook on things other than football might be clearer than ever. Ponder and his wife, ESPN college football reporter Samantha Ponder, welcomed their first child earlier this month. They named their little girl Bowden Sainte-Claire Ponder -- the middle name is the same as Samantha's, while the first, of course, pays homage to retired Florida State coach Bobby Bowden -- and they plan to call her "Scout," after the young narrator of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." Christian Ponder said his wife contacted his old college coach and arrange a surprise congratulatory phone call after the baby was born.

And as Christian Ponder prepares for the season, he's also preparing to divide his time between the grind of an NFL season and the demands of fatherhood.

"It's crazy to take such a responsibility -- you have someone that's so dependent on you," Ponder said. "You've got to take care of her and your family. It's an eye-opening experience, it's fun and it's scary at the same time."

The quarterback said he read three books on parenting before his daughter was born, and he mixed those in with his study of a Vikings offense that will look markedly different than the one Ponder played in for the last three seasons. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has defended Ponder against his critics, saying the 26-year-old quarterback still has the ability to develop in his system, and Ponder said he's enjoyed how he fits in the offense so far.

He'll be a free agent after this season and might not get much playing time to make any kind of statement about his future. But after three tumultuous years as a starter, Ponder seemed to have things in perspective Tuesday.

"It's going to have a different feel to it," Ponder said of training camp. "People say they're going to try to approach it the same way, but you can't. If you're not the starter, you can't approach it the same way. I'm going to try to take full advantage of everything I'm given, learn as much as possible and put the work in to get better. We'll see what happens."