Minnesota Vikings: Rookies Growing Up Fast, Taking Charge in Minnesota

Nick McAndrews@@NickMcAndrewsCorrespondent IIIMay 21, 2011

Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and VP of player personnel Rick Spielman justified their first-round pick of Christian Ponder by his intangibles. They claimed that his leadership ability and drive to win were enough to elect Ponder as the future and face of the Minnesota Vikings.

Ponder may have proved that this last week by taking the initiative to organize lockout practices with his new teammates. 

ESPN's Twin Cities radio affiliate reports that both Ponder and other 2011 selection DB Mistral Raymond have organized team practices in Tampa, Florida for Vikings skill players.

Raymond told Minnesota's AM 1500 that the practices are scheduled to run from May 30 to June 2. 

The practices will be held at the University of South Florida, Raymond's alma mater. According to multiple reports, Raymond merely contacted USF coach Skip Holtz about potentially hosting the practices. 

"I talked to my coaching staff and everything," Raymond said. "They said it's perfectly fine with them. So, if Christian gets this stuff together, we'll have the opportunity to get some of the Vikings' skill players down here right on campus at USF."

Earlier this week, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Ponder has contacted Vikings receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice about practicing together during the lockout. Getting some more guys like Raymond and other defensive players there could only benefit the young team. 

Now if they could only get Adrian Peterson to stop working out with Vince Young in Houston, TX and get him over to Tampa with the other Vikings. 

The Vikings are already behind some other NFL teams in practicing during the lockout, but they had to start sometime. These practices are essential in building chemistry between all of the skill players on both offense and defense. 

Given that Ponder could be put in a situation where he has to start Week 1, he needs as many reps as he can get with his receiving corps. The fact that Rice is committed to attending these practices and building chemistry with the young QB bodes well for both the team and Vikings fans. 

It is good to see the leadership in these two young new Vikings. Ponder, being a first rounder, pretty much has had a guaranteed spot on the roster, but Raymond doesn't have that luxury. Hopefully the initiative he has shown will be enough to put him in good terms with Vikings personnel. 

As I said in a previous article, Raymond is the Vikings draft pick that I most want to see succeed in training camp. The young safety has overcome so much already in his personal life, he is just the kind of guy you want to see succeed. 

If Packers star CB Tramon Williams can go undrafted and still become a major piece of a Super Bowl-winning team, why can't sixth rounder Raymond?

The Vikings have great need at safety, Raymond could be in a position to compete for some major playing time his rookie season. Could this early display of leadership be a glimpse of a great leader on the field for the Vikings someday?

The biggest question for the Vikings right now is, which rookies will come up big in 2011?