For those wondering whatever happened to Christian Ponder, he could be making an appearance in an NFL game in the near future. None other than Colin Kaepernick holds the key to his immediate future.
Ponder, the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL draft out of Florida State, is currently the third-string quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers. After four forgettable years with the Minnesota Vikings and not playing at all in 2015, San Francisco signed the former Seminole in August after training camp had already begun.
While Ponder’s signing generated little attention, Kaepernick brought the focus of the nation to San Francisco with his “take-a-knee” national anthem protest. Blaine Gabbert began the season as the starting quarterback, but last Sunday, Coach Chip Kelly gave the job to Kaepernick.
Before the switch from Gabbert, Ponder had the support of some of his offensive teammates to become the starter. On Sunday, Kaepernick was 13 for 29 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. He also ran for 66 yards.
Those are not statistics that get a quarterback immediately benched because when you lose 45-16, plenty of things are wrong. Another game or two like that and perhaps Ponder will have a chance to put his helmet on his head instead of sitting on it along the bench.
Make no mistake, the 49ers are in turmoil. Some of Kaepernick’s teammates may fully support the stand he is taking, but others do not. It would be foolish to think they have a united locker room.
It was no accident that word leaked out some of the San Francisco offense wanted Kelly to jump Ponder from number three on the depth chart to number one. While the players are professionals and will go out each week and do their best to win, they can also like Ponder personally more than they do Kaepernick, or Gabbert for that matter.
The next chapter of the San Francisco soap opera will feature none other than the Bucs. Tampa Bay visits Santa Clara and Levi’s Stadium on Sunday hoping to make Kaepernick’s day, as well as that of his teammates, miserable.
Perhaps, if the Bucs’ defense could play well enough, Ponder may get a shot either Sunday or in the not-too-distant future. The football world is watching how Kaepernick performs for different reasons.