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What To Watch For: Thursday Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 21, 2013 – 8:38 am

The 2013 Scouting Combine officially began on Wednesday, but for practical purposes the action really begins today (Thursday). Here’s a quick rundown of a few things to watch for today at the Combine…

Players
– Offensive linemen, place kickers, special teams players and tight ends enter Day 2 of the Combine schedule. They will go through the process of Measurements, Medical Examinations, Media Obligations, and Team Interviews.
— Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are in Day 1 of the Combine schedule. Today they’ll arrive in Indianapolis (if they didn’t do so on Wednesday evening) and go through Registration, Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays, Orientation, and Team Interviews.

Vikings Personnel
– GM Rick Spielman will head to the media center around 10:30 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. CT). He’ll swing by the KFAN broadcast booth to chat with Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen during his radio show. PA will be joined by Charch on Thursday and Friday as they do shows from radio row inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
— Spielman will also have his press conference here at the Combine and will appear at the podium at approximately 12:15 p.m. local time (11:15 a.m. CT).
— I will also join PA and Charch on-air today – once at 9:20ish and then again later in the show.

Combine Coverage
– You won’t see wall-to-wall daily Combine coverage on NFL Network until Saturday most likely, but you will see that type of coverage right here on vikings.com. So be sure to check back with us regularly to catch interviews of players, our coaches and personnel executives, yours truly, PA and Charch, and several other well-known national NFL media members.
— Be sure to follow us on Twitter for even more updates. You can follow the Vikings (@Vikings) and me (@wobby) for those updates.


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Special Teams Sets Tone For Practice; OTA #7 Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 2:51 pm

The Vikings opened up their final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at Winter Park on Monday under partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a brisk wind. After near-perfect weather a week ago, the windy conditions for OTA #7 added a challenging element for many phases of practice.

The first phase to deal with the wind was the Vikings special teams group, specifically the punt returners. Catching punts is difficult enough, but add in winds that gusted from 15-20 mph and the task becomes increasingly difficult. It didn’t faze the Vikings returners, though, as CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright fielded kicks gracefully.

The special teams’ performance in the first period of practice was an indication of what was to come, as the Vikings conducted a crisp and clean approximately 90-minute practice. The special teams setting a positive example for the rest of practice is something in which Mike Priefer, entering his second season as the Vikings special teams coordinator, takes pride.

“I’m very fortunate to work for a head coach like Coach Frazier,” Priefer told Radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen and yours truly during last week’s episode of Vikings Tonight on the Vikings Radio Network. “He gives me meeting time, he gives me practice time, he gives me individual time with guys. I like the fact that we start practice with special teams because, to me, we set the tone for the rest of the practice. We’re a high energy, high motor type period. We get a lot done in a fifteen- or twenty-minute period of time that we have. The fact that we get to start practice and get to set the tone for the rest of the day is exciting for me.”

A few other observations from OTA #7…

Who can, not who can’t
There have been no shortage of punt returners during OTAs. The four who caught punts on Monday are listed above, but several others have also been in the mix over the past two weeks. While fans are curious to know who will win the job after the position battle, Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White are still figuring out who will be in that position battle.

“We have eight or nine guys catching punts right now and you have to pull them out of a hat,” Priefer said on last week’s Vikings Tonight. “But the great thing is we have a lot of competition there. I’ve been at places where we have one guy, maybe two, that can even catch a punt. Here we have seven or eight guys who can catch punts.”

Sherels stands out
It was a good day of practice for CB Marcus Sherels, the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher who made last year’s Vikings squad as an undrafted free agent. If Sherels has more days like he had on Monday, he’ll once again be on the Vikings roster and in position to make an impact.

Sherels tallied a pair of pass breakups (PBUs) against what’s been one of the best QB-WR combinations during OTAs – Christian Ponder and Jerome Simpson. The first PBU came during a team offense vs. team defense period when Sherels jumped in front of Simpson on a short curl route, and the second PBU came during a 7-on-7 period of practice on a deep pass down the left sideline. On each play, Ponder placed the ball well and Simpson ran a good route, but Sherels was just able to make a great play on the ball.

Living on the edge
Ponder and fellow QB Joe Webb put their athleticism on display during a team offense vs. defense period. Both plays were similar in that the QBs were sprinting right to avoid a pursuing defender. DE Brian Robison was chasing Ponder, and the QB was able to buy just enough time to find WR Stephen Burton along the right sideline for a tip-toe completion before falling out of bounds. Moments later, Webb executed a similar play, sprinting right to avoid DE Eric Lattimore and completing a pass to TE Kyle Rudolph. The pass was thrown slightly behind Rudolph, but the second-year TE was able to reach back and make the catch before turning upfield to complete the play.

Good hands Griffen
Defensive linemen such as Everson Griffen spend much of their time rushing the passer. On Monday, though, Griffen showed off his pass-catching skills, grabbing a tipped pass to tally an INT.


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John Sullivan: Kalil “Willing To Put The Work In”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 8:18 am

Vikings C John Sullivan knows what it’s like to work hard to make it in the NFL. He entered the League as a 6th-round pick of the Vikings in 2008 and was a backup on the offensive line who also grinded away as a special teams player.

But through hard work and studying, Sullivan ascended to the top of the depth chart at center and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre in 2009. Sullivan is now one of the best centers in the NFL, and was rewarded as such last season when the Vikings signed him to a contract extension.

So when it comes to identifying players who are willing to work hard and who have the potential to be quality performers along the offensive line, Sullivan has a keen eye. Sullivan is also not one to spew meaningless hyperbole just to fill space or capture attention. That’s why what he said about Vikings 1st-round LT Matt Kalil last week on Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen’s 9-noon radio show is notable.

“He’s a guy that cares, he comes from a great football family, and he’s the fourth overall pick,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of pressure there, there is a lot of money involved as well. That’s a big investment for a team, and nobody with any pride wants to let people that have invested in them like that down. It’s the same way I felt when I got my new contract. It puts new pressure on you, added pressure on you to be there. But that’s alright, that’s why we play the game. We want to be successful, so you’ve got to be willing to put the work in. And he’s a guy that’s willing to put the work in.”

Sullivan has a pretty good body of work from which to judge because the team has completed 6 of their 10 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and has now advanced to the eighth week of their nine-week offseason program. While practices so far have been non-contact, Sullivan has been able to observe two important elements to offensive line play, especially at left tackle – movement skills and technique.

“All you have to do is go watch how he moves,” Sullivan explained. “He’s a freak, an absolute freak. I’m just talking about movement skills. He is so fast for how big he is. It’s unbelievable.

“I’m talking great technique. I’m talking cutting off a linebacker from the back side…He moves incredibly well. I can’t say he’s a road-grader yet because obviously we don’t have pads on, but I’d be shocked if he weren’t. He’s a monster.”

Again, it’s important to stress that we’re only in the offseason program. It’s not like Sullivan, or anyone else, has the benefit of NFL game tape to make a water-tight judgment on Kalil or any other player on the roster. After all, Kalil will be going against Jared Allen day-in and day-out once the team gets to training camp, which will make it tougher for Kalil to impress. But Sullivan is not one to shower someone with blanket praise when it’s not deserving, and, as a late-round pick who is now the leader of his position group, he’s also one who expects his teammates to earn respect rather than to be given it based on draft status.

That’s why Sullivan’s praise for Kalil to this point is such good news for the Vikings.


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23 Quick Observations From The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 29, 2012 – 6:32 am

1. Andrew Luck solidified his standing at the #1 prospect in this draft. Robert Griffin III did the same at the #2 position. I’d argue that in any other year dating back to 1998 (Peyton Manning), RG3 would be #1 player in the draft class, with the possible exception being 2001 (Michael Vick).

2. The St. Louis Rams, who hold the #2 overall pick right now, WILL trade out of that spot, and I think Cleveland is in the best position (#4 overall) to move up and get him.

3. Matt Kalil is the best LT prospect in this class, just ask him. But I do agree, and the Vikings and Vikings fans should be pleased to get him.

4. Might want to scratch WR Pierre Garcon off your free-agent wish list. A prominent ESPN personality predicted to me that he’ll stay in Indy. Also, Peter King of Sports Illustrated suggests Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne might be a package deal in free agency.

5. Expect a large number of teams to utilize the franchise tag to retain their most-valued free agents. This will shrink what appears to be a thick market at several positions.

6. WR Vincent Jackson is not a likely candidate to be tagged, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Vikings take a run at him, although the Vikings certainly won’t be the only team interested. Outside of Jackson, though, I don’t think the Vikings will be major players at the top end of the free agent market.

7. It was interesting to hear insiders talk about the significance of schools hosting their Pro Days before the NFL begins its free agency period (March 13). This means that at the start of free agency, most NFL GMs will be on the road scouting draft prospects.

8. Expect a fairly liberal roster turnover for the Vikings this offseason.

9. Interesting to hear Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explain the team must prepare as if CB Chris Cook will not be on the team in 2012. That’s not Frazier making any prediction, it’s just him simply explaining that the team must prepare for the worst-case scenario. I’d add that regardless of Cook’s status, CB is still a need for the Vikings.

10. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd was a winner at the Combine because he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. That’s quicker than some anticipated, and I think it assures he’ll go in the 1st round rather than the early part of the 2nd round.

11. Other WRs who jumped up during the Combine were Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill (4.36 in 40-yard dash), Wake Forest’s Chris Givens (think: Jeremy Maclin) and Appalachian State’s Brian Quick (played for Vikings staff at Senior Bowl).

12. The “best player available” (BPA) strategy will be in play for the Vikings this year, especially as it pertains to the team’s 2nd-round pick (currently #35 overall). Even if the BPA is a DE, RB or TE, I wouldn’t put it past GM Rick Spielman and his personnel staff to simply select the best football player on the board, regardless of position, when they’re on the clock. That’s a good way to infuse a talent-depleted roster with some talent.

13. An underrated aspect of this year’s draft class is the depth and top-end talent at DT. “I’ve got anywhere from five to seven potential first-round defensive tackles, which is atypical,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of the DT class during this week’s Wobcast. “Usually in a year you might have three first-round grades. So twice as many potential first-round picks. There is depth throughout the entire defensive tackle class, regardless of position.” Memphis’ Dontari Poe stole the show at the Combine, but he’s not the only talented, potential run-stopping DT out there. I also like Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox, Kendall Reyes, Devon Still and Jerel Worthy.

14. Speaking of NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, he’s THE best in the business at analyzing these college players and communicating his opinions under the bright lights with the cameras rolling. Truly a treat to work with him.

15. Not one national reporter/personality I spoke with at the Combine was negative on Christian Ponder. Most anticipate the Vikings adding talent around him to put him in position to succeed.

16. CB Janoris Jenkins is an interesting prospect. He’s a kid with clear 1st-round talent, but off-field issues might cause some teams to pause. “I’ve made a few mistakes and I’ve learned from them,” he was quoted as saying by Peter King. As King later noted, the question is, who will take a shot on a very good talent at a vital position, who is such a risk? Maybe the Vikings if he falls as far as #35, or even falls far enough for the Vikings to consider trading up to get him?

17. Indianapolis is a tremendous host city for big events such as the Combine. It’s in the Midwest, the residents are generally courteous, happy people, there’s a brand-new airport close to downtown, there are plenty of hotels and great restaurants, an elaborate skyway system links most of downtown, and Lucas Oil Stadium is a first-class facility.

18. A few small-school CBs to watch in this year’s draft class: Dwight Bentley (UL-Lafayette), Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson (Montana) and Ryan Steed (Furman).

19. I prefer Caribou Coffee to Starbucks. Our hotel had a Starbucks on the 2nd level, which I frequented each day and was satisfied with, but I prefer Caribou.

20. I wonder if hailing from such a great program (University of Alabama) has inflated the draft stock of LBs Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. I just wasn’t impressed with their on-field workouts, but I’ll also acknowledge game tape means much more than the Combine, plus they still have their Pro Day.

21. This was my 5th visit to the NFL Scouting Combine, but just the first time I tried a pizza parlor called Bazbeaux. Awesome thin crust pizza with a generous portion of toppings, a great atmosphere, a cool bar area and quick seating despite the place being packed to the brim on a busy Saturday night.

22. I thoroughly enjoyed my two days of co-hosting radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen’s weekday 9-noon radio show on KFAN.

23. A couple of sleeper picks for the Vikings in the 2nd round: S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame) and DL Nick Perry (USC).


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Decompressing After Information Overload On Friday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2012 – 9:13 am

Today the OL and special teams players will have their on-field workouts, QBs, WRs and RBs will go through more administrative duties and the DL and LBs will arrive. But before we worry about today, let’s go over a few important developments from Friday.

– I once again joined radio voice of the Vikings Paul Allen for his 3-hour morning show on KFAN and we had a rock-star list of guests all day. Dallas Morning News columnist Rick “Goose” Gosselin joined us right out of the gate and was excellent. If you’re not familar with him, Gosselin is known as a heavy hitter in the draft analyst world, specifically as it relates to researching players, speaking with NFL teams and then compiling highly accurate mock drafts. Last year, Gosselin had Tennessee taking Jake Locker and he even had the Redskins taking Christian Ponder at #10. Anyway, we had an NFL-wide type of conversation with Gosselin, but he did say he is optimistic on Ponder for the Vikings and he also thinks this year’s draft features great depth at CB, which is good news for a Vikings team that will need to add CBs in the middle rounds of the draft.

– Leslie Frazier joined us midway through the show and we touched on a variety of topics with him. I’ll refer you to KFAN’s on-demand page so you can listen to the whole interview, but Frazier was great with us and it was fun to catch up with him. One of the most interesting points came right at the end when PA brought up the Chris Cook situation. It’s a sticky issue to speak on, even for me, so I won’t get into it much here. But Frazier said the team basically has to plan as if he won’t be on the team because of the uncertainty that surrounds his off-field issues. That’s not to say Frazier is predicting Cook won’t be with the team, but it is to say that in some cases you have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

– One more interesting takeaway from the Frazier conversation is that he indicated the Vikings may be looking to play some more man coverage in the future, rather than relying on almost exclusively zone coverage. That part of the conversation began when I asked him about the physical characteristics he looks for in a CB. The stigma with Frazier and his defense is that he wants big, physical CBs who jam receivers at the line and then drop back into zone coverage. Frazier responded with his comment about playing more man coverage and about looking for CBs who are just good football players, regardless of size and build.

– NFL Network and CBS analyst Charley Casserly joined us just after Frazier and he provided some great insight as well. On Ponder, Casserly said: “I think he’s going to be fine. I think they reached on him when they drafted him, but most quarterbacks are reached on.” That’s a great point by Casserly, a guy who was a GM in the NFL for 20+ years and who wisely chose DE Mario Williams over RB Reggie Bush – despite consensus that Bush should’ve been the top pick – when he was GM of the Houston Texans.

– We also had other guests on the show, including NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, Rich Gannon, former Vikings S Jack Brewer, MN native and sports agent Blake Baratz. To check all of it out in on-demand format, head to the KFAN audio section of vikings.com by clicking here or you can also go to this page on KFAN.com.


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4 Quick Takeaways From Thursday’s Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2012 – 5:38 am

As I explained in the previous entry, Thursday was jam-packed with action and information gathering. Here are 4 quick takeaways that summarize what I learned after many interesting conversations – on air and off- with people in and around the NFL at the Combine.

1. The Pioneer Press’ Jeremy Fowler and La Canfora of NFL Network painted a picture of huge roster turnover for the Vikings, which means many of the team’s 16 unrestricted free agents might not be automatics to return.

2. One Viking who is not a UFA but whom some have speculated may not be asked back to the team is G Steve Hutchinson. But I must say that after talking to a couple of people, including one individual who will be a guest on tomorrow’s show, there’s no question that having Hutchinson on board for 2012 will be vital if the team uses an early 1st-round draft choice on LT Matt Kalil.

3. Regardless of how much room the Vikings have under the salary cap, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a big, blue-chip free agent signing at WR. Yes, the WR class appears deep in free agency this year, but La Canfora suggested that teams will use the franchise tag to retain their top free agents. He specifically mentioned Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson and Wes Welker as guys who could be retained via the franchise tag. That takes away a big part of the depth of that WR free agent class. There are still guys there to be had, including Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, Steve Johnson and Robert Meachem, but the moral of the story is that there might not be as big of a bonanza on free agent WRs as many of us originally thought.

4. Everyone, and I mean everyone, we spoke with on and off the record seemed convinced that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will go 1-2 in the draft. At first that might disappoint Vikings fans because it drastically reduces – I say it actually all but eliminates – the team’s chances of trading back a few spots in the 1st round to acquire additional picks. But after more consideration, I’m hoping it goes Luck-Griffin III in some order, because that sets up the Vikings to grab LT Matt Kalil at #3. Kalil passes the eye test no question, and I love the thought of taking a LT with the design of him being a franchise cornerstone and Christian Ponder protector for the next 10-15 years.


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Meeting Matt Kalil: PA Summarizes First Day At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2012 – 9:34 pm

Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine couldn’t have gone much better for vikings.com and KFAN. Keep in mind, there is no on-field activity until Saturday. But that’s actually the biggest reason why Thursday was so bountiful in interesting conversation and information gathering.

I joined Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen as a co-host of his 9-noon radio show on KFAN and we had rock star/Combine relevant guests all morning. From ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and former Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress right off the bat, to NFL Network reporter Jason La Canfora, Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz and Vikings VP Rick Spielman later in the show, Thursday’s action was non-stop. We even found some extra time to tape interviews for tomorrow’s show, so be sure to check it out because we had a solid conversation with former Vikings QB and NFL MVP Rich Gannon.

Also tomorrow, we should have NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock, Dallas Morning News Columnist Rick “Goose” Gosselin, NFL Network and CBS analyst Charley Casserly and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier as guest, plus several more that will materialize as the show goes on.

For a cool recap of what kinds of things transpire at the Combine, check out PA’s summary of Day 1 on his show page by clicking here.

If you didn’t listen to the show and/or you didn’t follow our coverage on vikings.com during Thursday, I suggest you do so on Friday. There is so much information flowing, and there is so much energy. The 3-13 season is behind us, a new season has begun, and there is so much to discuss. I can’t wait for Friday and the rest of the Combine.


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Plenty Of Action In Store On Day 1 Of Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2012 – 5:55 am

Early this morning I’ll make the trek from my hotel room to Lucas Oil Stadium to get vikings.com’s coverage rolling on Day 1 of the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. We have a lot on the docket for today, let’s break it down.

– Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will host his 9-noon (CT) radio show on KFAN from Lucas Oil Stadium today and tomorrow, and he’s asked me to join him as a co-host for two days. We’ll be talking Vikings and NFL for all three hours on both days, and during that time we’ll have plenty of interesting NFL guests. Already scheduled to join us are: Vikings GM Rick Spielman, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, Sports Illustrated writers Peter King and Don Banks, NFL Network and CBS analyst Charley Casserly, and NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock.

– Outside of joining PA on his radio show, I’ll also be providing coverage of the Combine for vikings.com by teaming with vikings.com Videographer Jordan Struck  to ask players, Frazier, Spielman and other NFL personalities to join us for video interviews. We’ll set up near the media center early each morning along with the other teams who send their websites to cover the Combine. The media center is located in the East Club of Lucas Oil Stadium and the room is complete with tables for media members to set up the computers and equipment, podiums for NFL coaches and executives to use during press conferences and then round tables for reporters and players to use for interviews.

– The Combine is a week-long event and it’s invitation-only for the players. So about 330 of the top college prospects will shuffle though Indianapolis this week.

– Not all the players are here at the same time. The players are broken up into position groups, and then those position groups go through the various stages of the Combine on a staggered schedule. For example, the first groups to arrive here were the OL, kickers, punters, long snappers and TEs. They arrived yesterday, went through an orientation process and then today they’ll go through measurements, medical examinations, psychological examinations, interviews with teams and a media session. The second group to arrive will be the QBs, RBs and WRs. They’ll go through the orientation process today, then tomorrow they’ll do what the first group is doing today. The next group is DL and LBs, and the last group is DBs.

– Later this morning, Spielman will have a press conference at one of the podiums in the media center. We’ll record that and have it posted on vikings.com for you to view as soon as possible. Then Spielman will, hop on Sirius NFL Radio, join PA and me on KFAN and then meet with Twin Cities beat writers.

That’s it for now. I’ll have much more for you later, so be sure to check back in with us frequently.


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Previewing Practices #3 And #4

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 3, 2011 – 7:07 am

There’s not a cloud in sight, the wind is calm and the temperature is pleasent in Mankato for Practice #3 and hopefully for Practice #4 at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. The Vikings will work for 2 hours, 30 minutes this morning in shoulder pads and helmets and then come back out in the afternoon for another 60-minute workout with no pads.

We’ll have updates for you all day long, so be sure to stay tuned to vikings.com and the official Vikings Twitter feed (@VikingsFootball) for all the information. Also, you can follow me on Twitter (@wobby) and you can listen to me chat with Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen when I join him at 9:35 during his daily radio show on AM 1130 KFAN.

Also, Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will meet with reporters after practice, so tune in to that on vikings.com to hear what they have to say about their new team just a couple days into training camp.


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Florida State Head Coach Talks About Ponder

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 3, 2011 – 10:19 am

I was driving to work this morning listening to Radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen during his weekday morning radio show on AM 1130 KFAN. PA was interviewing Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, who coached Vikings 1st-round pick Christian Ponder throughout the QB’s entire college career.

And by the time the interview was over – I was sitting in my car in a parking spot – I was ready to strap on a pair of shoulder pads and a helmet in order to help Ponder win some football games. The interview was incredible and Fisher spoke with great candor about his former QB. Click here to listen to the interview.

Obviously it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Fisher would talk about his former player with such glowing praise. But it’s the manner in which Fisher did it that got me – and PA and his producer, Joe Nelson – excited about what the future might hold for the Vikings and their new QB. In the interview, you won’t hear the typical coach speak that you hear so often from former coaches talking about their players. You hear real examples of how Ponder was a competitor and tough player at Florida State.

I recommend clicking the link to hear the interview, but here are a few highlights and quotes that stood out to me.

The first question PA asked coach Fisher was about the type of player Ponder will be for the Vikings.

“Can he make great decisions [and] is he accurate with the ball? Yes. Can he make all the throws? Yes. Can he create with his feet? Yes. Will people follow him and respect him? Yes. So there are a lot of things I like about him, in my opinion,” Fisher said.

Then PA got right to the nitty-gritty, asking Fisher about Ponder’s injury history, which is one of the biggest criticisms you hear about the QB.

“We played North Carolina State his junior year,” Fisher explained. “He runs the ball, scrambles, dives down; he actually dove down and got a first down on a third-and-two. A guy speared him in the back, under his rib cage. [Ponder] breaks two ribs [on] the first drive of the game. He breaks two ribs on the first drive, never plays with any pain-killer, goes in at halftime and we’re ahead. They tell us at halftime, ‘he can’t play.’ We come out, I’ve got the other guy ready to start, he comes running out – makes them (trainers) shoot him up (with pain killers) – and in that game we won 45-42 and he took us on a two-minute drive to win it.”

Fisher explained a few other injuries, noting that Ponder played in a bowl game that same season with a torn oblique (ouch!) and that with the elbow injury Ponder suffered later in his career, trainers would take 400-500 CCs of fluid out of his elbow after each game. Fisher described how trainers would have to cut off his elbow pad – rather than sliding it off, as you normally would – after each game because of the swelling.

Then, Fisher spoke about how Ponder A) would carry the Seminoles in victories basically by himself and B) would be at his best in big spots, which ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer criticized Ponder for earlier in the week (Dilfer was apparently quite a bit off the mark here, again).

“North Carolina just had the most guys drafted of any school out there,” Fisher said. “He had 300 yards against them (this past season); year before he threw for 400 (yards). He just competes; nothing fazes the guy.”

The Tar Heels just had 9 players drafted in this past weekend’s NFL Draft, with most of them having played against Ponder 2 seasons ago and some of them even playing this past season against FSU.

“We were down 24-7, we come back and win 30-28,” Fisher described. “He throws a touchdown with 5 minutes to go. In the game he was like 33 of 38 for 394 yards and three touchdowns, and the game-winner with five minutes to go against nine NFL draft picks. Up front we couldn’t block them. Their front, I mean everybody’s in the League (NFL). And they were really good. He scrambled to make yards. The throws he made against zone, against man, against blitz. I mean, the guy competed.

“In pressure situations he was great. On third down we were ranked number one in the league for two years in a row. One reason – our quarterback. Red zone we were at the top every year. In third down and red zone is where you get evaluated (as a QB).”

There were other interesting notes Fisher gave about Ponder, such as how intricately involved the QB would be in the developing the weekly game plan. Fisher said Ponder would develop new concepts to attack each opponent and that Ponder understands not just how to attack a defense, but why to attack a defense a certain way. Another interesting note Fisher divulged is that during his FSU career Ponder never played with a skill guy (RB, TE, WR) that was drafted into the NFL.

Whether you’re already excited about the Ponder pick or you’re not quite sold on it yet, the interview is a must listen.

Let’s play some football!


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