BRADENTON -- Every rookie has his own story to tell as the NFL labor dispute continues into its fourth month.
Some stand to lose more than others. One who falls into that category is former Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ponder might have been the surprise of this year’s NFL draft, getting selected 12th overall by the Minnesota Vikings.
With Brett Favre destined for retirement and no established quarterback on the roster, Ponder is in an enviable position.
But the longer the lockout lasts, the tougher it’s going to be for him to establish himself as the Vikings starting quarterback.
Ponder was at the NFL Rookie Symposium this week at the IMG Academies and was in the audience Wednesday morning when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association director DeMaurice Smith spoke to the new players.
“My goal is to be the starting quarterback. When you are missing practices and not getting as many reps and experience I need, obviously it hurts, but I am still doing everything I can to get myself prepared,” Ponder said. “I am not going to have any answers until we know when this thing is going to end. There is talk of them bringing in a veteran guy and if so obviously it would be someone who would help me and I would learn from.”
Ponder and some of the rookies ended their two-day symposium by entertaining children at the IMG soccer fields. Much of the talk was about rookies trying to make ends meet and take jobs they didn’t think they would need after they were drafted.
Ponder is one of the luckier ones because he has been able to earn money off his name.
“As a rookie you dream of starting right away and putting money in your pocket and it’s a whole different situation right now,” he said. “The good thing is that we have agents and they take care of you. My agent sent me down to IMG to train and I’ve made some money from trading card deals and some small endorsement stuff so I have a little something in my pocket.”
IMG officials said eight of the top 10 NFL first-round picks attended the symposium, entitled “Business of Football: Rookie Edition.”
Ponder and the other players said Smith and Goodell gave no indication of when the labor dispute might end, but he was feeling optimistic because of their joint appearance.
“It’s pretty big for them to come together and it looks like they have a pretty good relationship. It shows they are working together,” Ponder said.
“The biggest thing Smith hammered home is that us rookies have to be prepared. It’s going to end at some point and we are going to have to step on the field and play. They want to have a regular pre-season and have it all resolved by then and we will see if it happens.”
Von Miller, the second pick in the draft (Denver Broncos) agreed with Ponder that seeing Goodell and Smith together was encouraging. The linebacker said he was most moved about a speech he heard from Plaxico Burress, the former New York Giants receiver who was recently released from prison after serving 20 months on a weapon charges.
Miller is the only rookie whose name is on the antitrust lawsuit that the NFL Players Association filed against the league.
“I’ve been a big fan of Plaxico since I was a kid and to see someone who lost all that he did is a nightmare story, but it is something you can learn from,” Miller said. “When I listened to Mr. Smith and Mr. Goodell I saw two composed guys up there and I felt like both handled things perfectly. The thing I did with the lawsuit was for all the rookies. I see all of them as my brothers.”