EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Several of the Minnesota Vikings' veteran players stopped by at the opening of the rookie mini-camp on Friday morning, none with more of an interest than second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ponder, out of uniform, watched from the side as his new blind-side protector, left tackle and No. 4 overall draft pick Matt Kalil worked with the offensive lineman. Once the Vikings grouped up for offensive drills, Ponder was right there in the middle, close to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
"That's a big deal because we're counting on him from a leadership standpoint and you like the fact that your starting quarterback is a football junkie," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He would take the time to come out and just watch and observe. That's encouraging."
Ponder also appeared to be helping out the quarterbacks at the camp, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Spencer Ohm and Blake Bolles. Bethel-Thompson was signed to a futures contract earlier this offseason as a first-year player from Sacramento State. Ohm, who went to Concordia University, caught the Vikings' attention at the University of Minnesota pro day in March and earned a rookie mini-camp tryout. Bolles, also on a tryout basis, is from Northwest Missouri State.
Ponder wasn't the only veteran around though. He was joined by tight ends Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Mickey Shuler, offensive lineman John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt and DeMarcus Love. Backup quarterback Joe Webb and running back Jordan Todman were also in attendance.
Wright sits out afternoon session: One sight the Vikings didn't want to see was fourth-round pick wide receiver Jarius Wright throwing up on the field after taking a blow to the head. Wright left the first practice session early after going up for a pass and bumping his head, according to Frazier. He returned for the afternoon session, but didn't have a helmet and was just watching.
Later, Wright talked to the media and said he was feeling "good."
"No real problems with the head," Wright said. "I was feeling a little sick earlier, so for precautionary reasons they didn't want me coming back out here and getting sick again."
Some familiar names: There are no names on the practice jerseys; instead players have a sticker with their last name on their helmet. Two of the names are pretty familiar in Minnesota.
Linebacker Matt Singletary, the son of Vikings' assistant head coachlinebackers coach Mike Singletary is participating on a tryout basis as is wide receiver Marcus Fitzgerald, brother of Arizona Cardinals receiver and former Vikings' ball boy Larry Fitzgerald.
Marcus Fitzgerald played collegiately at Marshall. Matt Singletary played at Cal-Poly. Frazier, longtime friends with Mike Singletary, has known Matt since he was born, but is getting his first chance to see him in uniform.
"Just looking forward to watching him play," Frazier said. "I never had a chance to watch him in college until we started this process and watched him on tape. Always talk with him and of course his dad about how he was doing and now to see him as a young man, it's just amazing. He's a good athlete, so we're looking forward to seeing how he progresses over these next couple of days."
Numbers passed out: None of the Vikings draft picks have signed yet, but Friday they were sporting their new numbers. Kalil held up a No. 67 at his introductory press conference last week, but has switched to No. 75, the number he wore at USC. Fellow first-rounder, safety Harrison Smith is also wearing his college number, No. 22.
Third-round cornerback Josh Robinson will wear No. 31.
Receiver Jarius Wright (No. 1), tight end Rhett Ellison (No. 40), receiver Greg Childs (No. 85), safety Robert Blanton (No. 36), kicker Blair Walsh (No. 3), linebacker Audie Cole (No. 57) and defensive lineman Trevor Guyton (No. 92) were also in attendance.
Vikings bring in 70: Minnesota wasn't able to conduct a rookie mini-camp last season due to the lockout. This season, the Vikings have over 70 players at Winter Park, including the 10 draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents that agreed to terms, seven players signed pre-draft and 38 players on a tryout basis.
The result was a busy practice field, but it was just the way Frazier wanted it.
"When we were talking about this year's rookie minicamp, I asked Rick Spielman and the scouts to get us some numbers," Frazier said. "We wanted competition at this camp and we want the best guys you can get, but get us some depth as well. The more guys you have competing, the better the chance you have of finding someone that will be able to help your team. That was the goal, to get some numbers and not just have 20 to 25 guys. It should be good for us. We have plenty of time to watch tape and evaluate guys along with what we do on the football field. If you are able to find one guy that may have been undrafted that can help your football team, it's worth it."
The Vikings have even signed players out of their rookie mini-camp. Last year, cornerback Marcus Sherels made the 53-man roster and ended up as the team's punt returner, part-time kick returner and even played some defensive snaps in the nickel and dime defense as a cornerback.
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