ATLANTA – Christian Ponder will suit up for his first game of the season on Sunday when the 49ers face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Coach Chip Kelly made the move to promote Ponder into the backup position ahead of Blaine Gabbert and behind 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Ponder beat out rookie Jeff Driskel for a roster spot with a solid exhibition season after signing with the 49ers on Aug. 16 to replace injured veteran Thad Lewis. Ponder has not appeared in an NFL game since 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings. He completed 22 of 44 passes for 222 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Gabbert started the first five games of the season before getting benched. Gabbert completed 91 of 160 pass attempts (56.9 percent) for 925 yards with five touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 68.4. The 49ers were 1-4 in Gabbert's starts. The team's lone victory was a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 at Levi's Stadium.
Ponder, originally the No. 12 overall pick of the Vikings in 2011, appeared in 38 games with Minnesota, including 36 starts.
In his career, he has completed 59.8 percent of his attempts with 6,658 yards, 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
Inside linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started the past seven games, will not suit up. There was no immediate word on what prompted the demotion. Michael Wilhoite will start in place of Hodges, leaving the 49ers with only two inside linebackers. Nick Bellore will start alongside Wilhoite.
The 49ers announced rookie wide receiver Aaron Burbridge will start in place of Torrey Smith, who did not make the trip to Atlanta due to a concussion. Chris Harper and Rod Streater are also expected to see significant playing time, alongside starter Quinton Patton and slot receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Left tackle Joe Staley was also announced as an inactive player due to a hamstring strain.
There will be just two 49ers starters in uniform from the team’s last trip to Atlanta for the NFC Championship game in January 2013: quarterback Colin Kaepernick and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Only three of the 49ers’ backups from the Super Bowl season are still around: tight end Garrett Celek, cornerback Tramaine Brock and linebacker Michael Wilhoite.
QB Blaine Gabbert
RB Mike Davis
OL Josh Allen
LB Gerald Hodges
T Joe Staley
WR Torrey Smith
DL Tony Jerod-Eddie