Minnesota Vikings: Samantha Ponder

Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

When he joined the Minnesota Vikings in May, as the quarterback of the future on a team that figured to be taking its cues from Matt Cassel in 2014, Teddy Bridgewater was careful to abide by the old axiom about rookies being seen and not heard. He was assertive, but not outspoken, in his first few months with the Vikings, deflecting credit in interviews and largely keeping to himself in the locker room.

Bridgewater
Not much changed when Bridgewater became the Vikings' starting quarterback in Week 4, but in recent weeks, he has started to show a little more of his personality in the locker room. And when Mike Zimmer declared the Vikings are Bridgewater's team after Sunday's win against the New York Jets, it seemed to be an invitation as much as anything.

"Teddy is so respectful of knowing his place and understanding everything," Zimmer said. "Quite honestly, I’m glad he’s like that, because the veterans gravitate to him, the offensive line gravitates to him, the defensive players gravitate to him. Those are the things that, and he’ll eventually -- I don’t know when it’ll be -- but he’ll eventually grow into that. He’s the guy."

Bridgewater's leadership was one of the things that Zimmer liked most about him during the pre-draft process, and the coach brought it up again after the game on Sunday, referencing Bridgewater's career at Miami Northwestern High School. "He was really the leader of that school, and everybody there respects him," Zimmer said. "They’ve had great, great, great athletes and players come out of his high school, but they all talk about Teddy Bridgewater and what he did for that school, what he’s done for their program and but not only football -- the teachers, the administrators and everybody else -- and to me that says an awful lot."

In our interview with the coach during the team's bye week, Zimmer talked about the solid foundation the Vikings will have in several years, when Bridgewater and linebacker Anthony Barr are the Vikings' leaders. Both players will have to grow into those roles, and Bridgewater, especially, will be asked to play the alpha dog role. Zimmer made it clear again on Sunday, though, that Bridgewater has his blessing to move in that direction.

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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
Ponder
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."
Welcome to a new feature on our ESPN.com Vikings blog that I'm tentatively calling (for now) Around the Vikings Beat. It'll be a one-stop shop each morning highlighting the most interesting Vikings coverage of the day -- not just from here, but from other outlets covering the team. Call it a more localized version of the excellent Black & Blue All Over feature that Kevin Seifert popularized on the NFC North blog. And if you have a more creative name for it than "Around the Vikings Beat," I'm all ears. There's a reason I didn't go to college for marketing.

Anyway, the first edition of this might feel a bit clunky, because it's going to be headlined by a story that I was working on this month while I was still at the Pioneer Press. I sat down with Christian Ponder for a wide-ranging Q&A, in which the quarterback discussed his pivotal third season in the league, answered critics who said he should have toughed out the Vikings' playoff loss to the Packers, and talked about his marriage to ESPN college football reporter Samantha Ponder.

Speaking about the playoff loss, which he missed because of a deep bruise on his throwing arm, Ponder said, " If I could have played, I would have played. It's my first playoff game. I did everything I could to get there. Why would I just give up and decide I didn't want to play? I couldn't throw the ball."

And in Bob Sansevere's conversation with Samantha Ponder, she discussed how soon she knew the quarterback was the one, his proposal that was nearly foiled by cold Minnesota weather, and the notion that their in-season marriage was a distraction last December.

" I'm telling you, the thought that someone having a wife or girlfriend ... they're also human beings. People forget they play football at a professional level, but everybody has got a girlfriend or a wife or whatever. That's a part of being an adult," she said. "The thing that was funny to me was people saying, "This was a distraction." It was not a distraction. It's not like he was planning some big wedding. There was none of that. The only distraction was fans saying, "It's a distraction." There was no distraction. We were fine."

Continuing around the Vikings beat:

We talked here about how Jarius Wright's injury might lead to a bigger role for Cordarrelle Patterson on Sunday night.

A New Jersey judge could soon award damages in the lawsuit against Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, according to Mike Kaszuba of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune writes that there is no reason for Adrian Peterson to play in the preseaason.

Erin Henderson was initially worried he might be seriously injured when a teammate stepped on his heel Thursday, Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune writes.

Sansevere also says Peterson's remarkable recovery from knee surgery is skewing the timetable for others returning from a torn ACL.

Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti is doing all the little things right, according to Andrew Krammer of ESPN 1500.

Vikings running back Joe Banyard is an experienced rattlesnake hunter, according to Tim Yotter of Viking Update.

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