Head coach leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman conducted press conferences shortly after the selection of FSU QB Christian Ponder. Below are the transcripts of those, starting with Head Coach Leslie Frazier:
Frazier Opening Statement: We selected our first round pick, a quarterback from Florida State that we’re excited about. Christian Ponder has done a great job in college and we fully expect him to do a great job for us as well. I think it’s a great night for the Minnesota Vikings, I really do. We get a chance to solidify, in my mind, the most important position on a football team, the quarterback position and the guy who is the leader, not necessarily by choice of your football team, but he is the recognized leader of your team. We were able to address that tonight and drafted Christian Ponder, who I really believe is going to do a great job in the National Football League.
Q: Once Jake Locker was off the board, did you take a step back?
A: Not really. Rick is taking us through a thousand different scenarios over the last few weeks and I don’t think anything happened in those first eleven picks that we didn’t anticipate or hadn’t talked about at some point. So, there was nothing that made us take a deep breath along the way.
Q: Is Christian Ponder the starter or is it an open competition?
A: Well, I still want it to be an open competition with the guys that are on our roster right now. There’s Joe Webb, there’s Rhett and of course Christian eventually. So, it will be those three and what happens with free agency, who knows? We’ll eventually get to that point, but right now it’s a competition between those three and we’ll line up with the best guy against the Chargers.
Q: Did his football IQ prove to be a major positive in your eyes?
A: That’s a tremendous asset in his case. He’s an extremely intelligent young man and the fact that he would be able to pick up an offense in a short period of time, that’s an asset in the situation we’re currently in the National Football League. So, it didn’t hurt the fact that he was an extremely smart individual, so we’ll see what that translates to, based on what happens to our league over the next few weeks and months to come, but it’s definitely a plus.
Q: What’s the plan for bringing guys in to work out?
A: You know I’ve talked to a number of our players this afternoon, just making them aware of the fact that they can come over and work out and our coaches are talking with them as well, making them aware that they can come over and work out tomorrow and starting next week, hopefully being able to be around the building. So, we’ve already begun the process, introducing them to the fact that we’re open for business and we’d like to begin to look towards mini-camps and OTA’s and we’re waiting on some word regarding that, but right now we are making plans to put in place some OTA’s and mini-camps.
Q: You met with Ponder before the draft. What are your thoughts?
A: Had a chance to spend time with him at the Senior Bowl. We spent time with him at the combine and then also down at his campus at a pro day, so we got a chance to get to know him quite well and obviously we were extremely impressed with him and we feel good about where he is and what he is going to bring to the table.
Q: What characteristics did you like about Ponder?
A: I like the fact that, first of all, he’s an extremely smart guy and at that position, that’s a plus. That’s a major plus, along with the fact that he’s extremely accurate with the football. He’s a tough guy. Has good leadership qualities, things you look for in a quarterback and his intangibles, the fact that he gets along with everybody on the football team. Other guys gravitate to him whether they are on defense, whether its on the offensive line or running back, I mean guys wanted to be around Christian. Those qualities were some of the things you look for beyond the talent at the quarterback position. Those are some of the things that really impressed me.
Q: Did you and Rick Spielman have him ranked the same?
A: I didn’t think we had to sell one another on Christian. We were excited about him all along and when we went down to the pro day and had a chance to spend time with him. We went out to dinner. We talked a lot. We went over a lot of things on the football field. I think we all came away from that visit saying man, if that guy is there it would be hard to pass him up and fortunate for us he ended up being there at 12.
Q: Coming from a defensive background, were you surprised at the depth of defensive talent left at pick 12?
A: You know that’s the way the Draft goes. Some years there’s a run on certain positions and other years it’s not always as predictable as you’d like it to be. So not completely surprised, but as it unfolds, there usually are some surprises along the way.
Q: Do you sense that a new coach is tied to his highly chosen quarterback?
A: That may happen but I feel good about it. That’s one of the reasons I endorsed this pick so that’s not a problem for me. I’m looking forward to Christian being our quarterback and doing a great job for us for a long time to come.
Q: Reactions from the fans seem mixed. What is your response to the fans?
A: Our fans love the Minnesota Vikings. They want to see the Vikings do well so we have to go out and perform and if we don’t perform well this next season, emotions will be mixed also. As a team we’ve got to make sure we are doing the right things for our fans to be supportive and be cheering. We plan on getting that done over the course of this next season.
Q: When in the process did you feel you were going to take a quarterback?
A: I don’t think there was ever a time where we said we have to take a quarterback. Even right up until yesterday afternoon we were going through different scenarios again. We kept looking at different scenarios and trying to paint a picture, if a quarterback is not there or if a quarterback is there, what direction we will go because we knew at our pick number 12 there were going to be a lot of good football players on the board, but we also had guys ranked by position along with best available so when Christian was there at our pick, for us it was just in a lot of ways a no-brainer to take him understanding what our situation is and where we want to go as a football team.
Q: How many quarterbacks were in the draft that you felt comfortable with?
A: We took the guy that I’m the most comfortable with. I mean that’s the guy that I have confidence who is going to do a great job leading our football team, although he’s a rookie and he’ll be in competition for the starting job when we get ready to open against San Diego, I have confidence that we took the right guy.
Q: Do you have expectations for him to start?
A: Well some of it will depend on when we actually start football. If for some reason everything is delayed and we’re not doing this and we’re not back together again until July or August or whenever, then your expectations change a little bit so it’s kind of mixed right now. We have to kind of wait and see what happens with our League.
Q: If he Ponder comes in tomorrow can he get the playbook?
A: Yeah. We’re going to spend time with him talking about our offense and Craig Johnson, our quarterbacks coach along with Bill (Musgrave), they’re going to spend the time that we have him in the building talking football and trying to get him up to speed not knowing when we are going to see him again.
Q: How do you balance on when you should wait and when you should play him?
A: Yeah, you got to gauge your quarterback and determine, based on your football team, is that the right fit for him? You got to make sure you got all the parts around a guy if you’re going to put him in that situation, otherwise we all know you can ruin a young quarterback and he fails too often so we got to be smart and we will. We’ll take a look at where he is and how he’s progressing and we’ll make a decision based on that.
GM Rick Spielman Opening Statement: We were very excited with what we were able to do in the first round. Quarterback was a huge need for us as everybody knows. We are very excited to get Christian Ponder; he was one of our top-rated quarterbacks. After watching how well he played during his 2009 season, he had an injury this year which affected some of the throws he made. But after he was able to get healthy through the season he did an excellent job, and that was especially true in the Florida game. Then we saw him at the Senior Bowl and thought he was the top quarterback there. Then we watched what he did at the combine and finished up with his evaluation down at Florida State. Myself, Leslie (Frazier) and (Offensive Coordinator) Bill Musgrave were able to spend a day and a half with him. Christian is extremely bright. He is one of the smartest guys we evaluated and spent time with. He’s an A+ character kid. Football is very important to him and he has a passion for the game. You not only see that by talking to him, but also by how he played through the injuries he had. As we look at how this draft unfolded, we started to see the quarterbacks start to go. What we were looking at. was when Washington traded back to number sixteen, knowing that they would potentially take a quarterback in that spot, we didn’t want to go beyond that point. We tried to look at some options of moving back, but we did not have any takers when we were on the clock. We were put in a situation where we had a couple good players at other positions on our board, but we had the quarterback rated right up there with those other positions. You very rarely get a chance to take a swing at a young quarterback, and we felt that it was a no-brainer to take Christian Ponder.
Q: Were you worried about his injuries over his past two seasons?
A: Our doctors looked at that and there was nothing significant. This year, he got hurt at the Oklahoma game when he took a severe hit on his throwing tricep and it eventually ended up as a bursa sac situation. He played with that throughout the year. He struggled with that injury but then played extremely well towards the end of the season. The other thing is that, that tells you how tough he is. When we visited with the coaches down there (Florida State), they couldn’t get him off of the field. They would try to monitor him during practices, but he would stay out there and he was not going to miss a game regardless. He played at a high level with that injury as well.
Q: You mentioned that you wouldn’t reach for a quarterback. Is this a reach in your mind?
A: No, not on our board. We felt very confident where we graded him. We graded him worthy of that spot. As the draft started to unfold, you see all the top guys going where we predicted they would go. Christian Ponder was right in the mix from where he was stacked on our board with those other players.
Q: You said you didn’t want to go below Washington at 16. Did you get offers from teams lower than that?
A: No, we got a couple before the draft, but once we were on the clock, we had no options to trade back.
Q: Did you talk about trading up with Dallas at nine to get Blaine Gabbert?
A: We talked about that as well. I know Jacksonville ended up giving a first and a second round pick for Blaine, and we weren’t going to be able to do that.
Q: Will he be your starter, or will you bring in a veteran?
A: That’s Leslie’s (Frazier) question, but I know we are still going to keep all avenues open about potentially bringing in a veteran. I know Leslie has spoken previously about having an open competition. We are still very excited about Joe Webb. Leslie and our coaching staff will make that determination.
Q: How does Christian rank with the other quarterbacks that were selected ahead of him?
A: He was ranked in there with those guys.
Q: Was he one of your top twelve players on your board overall?
A: You have to look at the guys that had potential medial concerns that were slightly ahead but we wouldn’t have taken because of potential medical concerns or character concerns. When you eliminate those guys, yes, he became one of the top twelve guys for us.
Q: Did you think about taking Nick Fairley knowing the outcome of the Kevin Williams court case?
A: The thing we went back and forth on was when are you going to get another chance to swing? If Ponder was gone, are you going to get another opportunity to take a quarterback in this draft? We didn’t want to take that risk….If we don’t get a quarterback this year that we like, who knows what the quarterback class is next year. We are planning on not picking in the 12 spot again next year. Especially at the quarterback position, if you have a guy graded on your board that you think is worth of taking. We felt very confident Christian Ponder was worthy of that twelfth pick, so you have to take a shot at him.
Q: Will Ponder’s intelligence help his learning curve with a new offense?
A: He is extremely bright. One of the top quarterbacks as we went through this process. He graduated in two and a half years. He has his M.B.A. and is working on his second Masters. After talking with their coaches, he knows their offense inside and out. He has also worked in a pro-style offense. He has taken some snaps from center and you can see how accurate he is when he gets back and sets his feet. All of them are going to have some things to work on, but we felt he was NFL-ready.
Q: Was Andy Dalton in the mix with Christian Ponder when you were looking at quarterbacks?
A: I’m not going to tell you who was in with who, but I will tell you Christian Ponder was the guy we wanted.
Q: How crazy of a day was it for you with the NFL labor ruling and the NFL Draft?
A: I never would’ve guessed that at 1:00 that (Vice President of Football Operations) Rob Brzezinski, Leslie Frazier, our ownership and (Vice President of Legal Affairs & Chief Administrative Officer) Kevin Warren would be all sitting together going through all of the legal stuff and what we can and cannot do with the players and how it’s going to open up tomorrow. It’s just another exciting part of the day.
Q: Are you going to open up the facility to the players tomorrow?
A: Leslie will address that, but I think we will open our facility up for voluntary workouts tomorrow.
Q: Are you able to sign any free agents?
A: No, there are no transactions going on at all.
Q: Was there an opportunity to move up in this draft?
A: We looked at every opportunity and felt that what we did by staying patient and going to get the guy that we really wanted was right. There was really no discussion; Christian Ponder was our guy.
Q: You know that taking a quarterback with the number twelve pick will be a defining moment in your franchise. Are you comfortable with that pick?
A: Of course; if we weren’t comfortable, we wouldn’t have taken him. That will determine itself three or four years down the road. When a franchise needs to take a quarterback and you like that quarterback and everything he brings to the organization, I don’t think you can pass that opportunity up.