EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder was watching during draft time in April, when the Minnesota Vikings passed on a chance to bring in another quarterback in favor of a left tackle to keep Ponder off his back.
He also noticed last week when general manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier decided to cut veteran backup Sage Rosenfels and keep a stable of young quarterbacks with Ponder at the top of the depth chart.
Heading into his first full season as the starter, and after an unconvincing preseason, Ponder knows it's time to reward that faith. The Vikings open the regular season at home against Jacksonville on Sunday. With Adrian Peterson likely to carry a light load if he plays at all, the offense will run through Ponder's right arm.
Even though his exhibition performances weren't exactly emphatic, Ponder enters the season brimming with confidence.
"It helps me to see Rick Spielman adding pieces around me. It shows that he has confidence in me to build around me," Ponder said on Wednesday. "When others show confidence in (you), that just keeps building it. I think this year is going to be a lot better than last year, especially for me."
It's going to have to be. The Vikings went 3-13, with Ponder starting 10 games after the failed Donovan McNabb experiment. Without an offseason to prepare because of the lockout, Ponder was ragged. He had his moments -- 381 yards against Denver and performing admirably against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at the Metrodome -- but also struggled with accuracy and inconsistency. He threw 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and sustained several injuries with his scrambling style.
The Vikings lost seven of the last eight games and finished in last place for the second straight season.
"I take a lot of the blame of what happened last year on myself," Ponder said. "It really didn't have a lot to do with what other players were doing. I was making bad mistakes and dumb decisions."
With the same offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in place, Ponder says he feels much more comfortable this season.
"It creates just a whole different atmosphere and confidence between myself and the coaching staff," he said. "I'm glad I went through what happened last year and I think that being in the same offense is only going to help myself and the rest of the guys that are a part of it."