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Christian Ponder on role as No. 3 QB: 'I understand what my spot is'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Christian Ponder is currently third on the depth chart in Minnesota. (USATSI)
Christian Ponder is currently third on the depth chart in Minnesota. (USATSI)

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It wasn't surprising when the Vikings chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on quarterback Christian Ponder's rookie contract. And it was even less surprising when the team traded into the first round to take Teddy Bridgewater.

Now nearly two weeks into training camp, and days after offensive coordinator Norv Turner said that he's excited about Bridgewater's progress, Ponder finds himself third on the depth chart behind the rookie and veteran Matt Cassel.

The 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft is taking the demotion about as well as an be expected.

"Yeah, it is tough," Ponder said, according to Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson. "It's tough not getting reps in practice. I'm a competitor. You want to be the guy who is playing and starting.

"Although I love football and I love playing, to get a picture (from his wife) of my daughter smiling, it makes me smile after practice and it does put things in perspective that football is not everything. So it feels like it came at the right time."

In three NFL seasons, Ponder started 35 games, completed 60 percent of his throws, including 38 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. Over that time, he never ranked higher than 21st in Football Outsiders' QB efficiency metric.

The Vikings host the Raiders in their preseason opener Friday and Ponder is hoping to play in the second half.

"I understand what my spot is," he said. "And as the third quarterback, there's a lot of responsibility. I've got to be prepared. I'm not getting as many reps as the other guys, but you always have to be prepared.

"I'm learning from (offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner) about why we do certain things and how we attack certain defenses. They have a lot of football knowledge, and this is going to help me out in the long run."

As for the future, Ponder expects to remain in Minnesota but is preparing for the possibility that that could change.

"I assume that I'll be here," Ponder said. "I'm preparing that way. If something happens, then I'll deal with it when it comes. ...

"(My $1.76 million contract is) fully guaranteed, and I'm still here, and if something is going to happen, then it's going to happen," he said. "I'm focused on just getting better. ... It hurts when you're not playing, but I do feel like it's going to make it better in the long run."

The quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2011 draft have struggled to find success. Cam Newton has been better than advertised but Jake Locker (eighth overall, Titans), Blaine Gabbert (10th overall, Jaguars) and Ponder have been huge disappointments. Locker has one last chance to prove himself in Tennessee, and Jacksonville shipped Gabbert to San Francisco for a late-round pick earlier this offseason. Meanwhile, two 2011 second-rounders, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton, got long-term extensions in recent months.

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