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Vikings' Ponder wants to start but willing to learn from veteran

Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, the Minnesota Vikings' first-round draft pick, told KFAN-AM that he's gunning to become the team's starting quarterback this season, but he understands the thought process behind possibly bringing in a veteran.

"Obviously, I think everyone in my position would love to start Week 1," Ponder told the radio station last week. "It's the competitor in me, and something I've always dreamed of was starting in the NFL, and I want to do it ASAP. But obviously there are some reasons behind bringing a guy in, and obviously there's some definite pros to it. If they still bring in a guy, it's going to be someone who knows what he's doing. It will give me a lot to learn from and help me out.

"But at the same time, I want to definitely start Week 1. So, we'll see what happens, and whatever happens, I'll be completely fine with it. I think the coaches are going to make the best decision for me personally."

Ponder, a former Florida State star, said his offseason training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., has helped him learn NFL verbiage and play-calling in a minicamp-style setting.

"There's probably 15 to 20 guys here at IMG and some guys that are in college, some guys are in the NFL and they are coming out and catching routes," Ponder said. "We had some guys that came in that were from the Vikings a couple of weeks ago and we did the same thing when they were here. (Vikings wideout) Manny Arceneaux is down here full time. ... (Vikings tight end Visanthe) Shiancoe was just down here for a couple of days this week ... I got to work with him a bit as well."

Shiancoe joined Ponder and Vikings quarterback Joe Webb, who was forced into starting as a rookie late last season because of injuries to Minnesota's other signal-callers. Ponder and Webb likely would compete for the starting job if the Vikings don't add a veteran quarterback.

"We really went over the playbook," Shiancoe told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora last week.

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"Visanthe is a freak," Ponder said of Shiancoe's athleticism.

Ponder told the radio station that he has kept an eye on labor talks during the NFL lockout, and he can't wait to get going once things are settled.

"I've definitely been following it," Ponder said. "It's just too hard to tell (when the lockout will end) because there's not enough details being released and everyone is being optimistic about it. Then you hear comments here and there that say not to be optimistic about it because we are a long way away, so it's too hard to tell. I want to be optimistic about it, and hopefully things are going to end soon. But at the same time, I don't want to get my hopes up and nothing happens. ... Hopefully it clears up in the next couple weeks. So we'll see."

Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson is waiting to see what Ponder can bring to the offense, *The Star Tribune* reported Monday, citing ESPN.

"I really don't know much about the guy," Peterson told ESPN earlier this month. "I've heard nothing but good things about him. I've watched him a little bit at Florida State. One thing I have noticed is he's smart with the ball, he's very accurate and just taking the surrounding cast we have as far as receivers -- Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Shiancoe -- I feel like he'll be able to do enough to get us there.

"We all have our part to do to contribute. I'm definitely going to do my part. So I'm going to do the best I can to make it easy on him, (being as how) he's a first-year guy and we'll see how he responds."

With the lockout in its fourth month, Peterson refused to count out Webb in the team's quarterback battle -- or the addition of a veteran passer.

"Obviously (Brett) Favre is retired, we've got some guys returning -- Joe Webb," Peterson said. "When you draft a quarterback (as high as Ponder), I'm sure you would assume that he's going to come in as the starter. The lockout is still in effect, and it's still undetermined when the season is going to start. I don't know how we throw a young guy into the fire like that. To just start.

"To be able to sit here and tell you who exactly is going to start, it's a long stretch for me to pick. I'm sure whenever the lockout is lifted and we start where there is some type of training camp, the best player will be on the field."

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