ATLANTA -- Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert have swapped spots in the 49ers' pecking order with Ponder serving as Colin Kaepernick's backup today against the Falcons. Gabbert is inactive for the first time in two seasons.
Ponder last threw a regular-season pass as a member of the Vikings on Oct. 2, 2014 in a 42-10 loss to the Packers in which he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Minnesota drafted Ponder, 28, with the 12 overall pick in the 2011 draft, two selections after the Jaguars chose Gabbert.
Ponder spent time on the Raiders and Broncos rosters last year and was picked up by the 49ers midway through the recent training camp when Kaepernick was sidelined with a fatigued throwing shoulder. Ponder finished the preseason 16-25 for 198 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. He also scored three rushing touchdowns during the summer session.
Gabbert started the first five games of the season but was replaced by Kaepernick for the team's Week 6 game in Buffalo. When Kaepernick was ineffective during a recent game in Chicago, Gabbert relieved him in the fourth quarter but completed only 4-10 passes and was sacked for a safety.
If Kaepernick, as expected, opts out of his contract in March, every quarterback currently on the 49ers’ roster will be a free agent. The 49ers likely want to see Ponder in a regular-season situation before they decide who they will try to retain in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Joe Staley is inactive for the second straight game with a hamstring strain. He warmed up two hours before the game and seems close to returning for Saturday's game in Los Angeles. Zane Beadles will start at left tackle. Undrafted rookie Alex Balducci will be the backup at center and both guard spots.
Starting inside linebacker Gerald Hodges is inactive for violating team rules -- specifics were not immediately available -- leaving the 49ers with just two inside linebackers, Michael Wilhoite and Nick Bellore. Hodges is slated to become a free agent in March.
Receiver Torrey Smith (concussion) was ruled out Friday and did not make the trip. The 49ers reported that Aaron Burbridge will start in his place.
QB Blaine Gabbert
T Joe Staley
WR Torrey Smith
LB Gerald Hodges
RB Mike Davis
OL Josh Allen
DL Tony Jerod-Eddie
WR Julio Jones
WR Nick Williams
S Robenson Therezie
CB Jalen Collins
G Wes Schweitzer
WR J.D. McKissic
DE Adrian Clayborn