Christian Ponder, a former first-round draft pick, was home in Phoenix last summer considering his future.
Should he continue working out in hopes of another shot at being an NFL quarterback? Should he accept a job offer from a wealth management company? Should he transition into television, following his wife, ESPN sideline reporter Sam Ponder?
“When the middle of April came around [and he remained unsigned], I started to change my mindset,” the Colleyville Heritage alum said in a phone interview. “I started to make that transition. OK, let’s figure out what we want to do.
“… I didn’t want to make a commitment until the 2016 season is done, because you never know. In my mind, I was holding out hope. But I still wasn’t spending that much time working out or throwing. I was afraid I was wasting time. I didn’t want to spend all that time working out and throwing when nothing was ever going to come of it.”
The San Francisco 49ers signed Ponder to a one-year deal Aug. 16, halfway through training camp, after quarterback Thad Lewis was lost for the season. Ponder made the team, beating out rookie Jeff Driskel.
I want to get out there. I feel like I practice really well and in the preseason played well. I feel like I’ve got something to prove a little bit.
Christian Ponder, who hasn’t played this season as the 49ers’ third-string QB
“I really want to play,” Ponder said. “Even while I was sitting out, I had that desire to play. It’s tough to sit there on Sundays and watch other guys play. I want to get out there. I feel like I practice really well and in the preseason played well. I feel like I’ve got something to prove a little bit.”
Most already have written off Ponder, the 12th overall pick of the Vikings in 2011. He’s heard the dirty word they call him — bust — and he desperately wants to prove he’s not.
Ponder, only 28, fits Chip Kelly’s offense. He’s also matured, while regaining the mental toughness he had at Florida State.
“It’s a world of difference [from his rookie season],” Ponder said. “Just the understanding of the profession and what it is to be a professional. I think I dealt back then with a lot immaturity and also dealt with a lot of anxiety, making the game bigger than what it is. It’s a tough game. It’s a hard game. But I was dealing with a ton of anxiety. Now, after taking a step back and thinking you’re done, going back into it, it’s, ‘OK, I’ve had it taken away. I know what that’s like. So let’s not worry about losing this job.’ ”
Ponder, 14-21-1 in four seasons with the Vikings, including 10-6 in 2012, received a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys last year after Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone in a Week 2 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The workout did not go well.
I knew after the workout that nothing was going to happen. It was that bad.
Ponder, on trying to win a job with the Cowboys after Tony Romo’s Week 2 injury in 2015
“It was tough,” Ponder said. “I knew after the workout that nothing was going to happen. It was that bad. I just didn’t put in the work. I didn’t work hard enough to prepare for that workout. I reaped what I sowed. I also think I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well that day, because it was the hometown team, and it was the Cowboys. That hurt me.”
Ponder was better prepared for a workout for the Denver Broncos later in the year and spent two games there. Now with his fourth team, Ponder hopes he has found his NFL home.
But he signed only a one-year deal, so his future remains uncertain.
“Who knows? I don’t know what will happen,” Ponder said.
My five cents
1 Bryce Petty gets a four-game audition to show the New York Jets he’s their quarterback of the future. The former Baylor star, a fourth-round pick in 2015, made his first career start in Week 10 and lost to the Los Angeles Rams 9-6. “I’m a kid from Midlothian, Texas,” Petty told reporters in New York. “Who would’ve ever thought I would be where I am now? I’m excited for the opportunity.”
2 Josh Doctson’s season officially ended when the Washington Redskins designated center Kory Lichtensteiger to return from injured reserve. That means the former Mansfield Legacy and TCU receiver, their first-round pick, will remain on IR where the Redskins placed him Oct. 21 with chronic tendonitis in his left Achilles’ tendon.
3 Christine Michael remains the Seattle Seahawks’ leading rusher with 469 yards, but the Texas A&M alum now plays for the Green Bay Packers. Michael, in his fourth game with Green Bay, led the Packers with nine carries last week though he gained only 19 yards.
4 An ankle injury has slowed New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett. The former Texas A&M star, a second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, has caught only six passes for 40 yards the past three games. He has not scored since Oct. 9. But the Patriots are counting on him to replace Rob Gronkowski.
5 Adrian Peterson has passed the 11-week mark in his rehab from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The Minnesota Vikings running back might — or might not — return this season. Peterson, who carries an $18 million cap hit for next season, won’t return under his current contract. He won’t risk his future by playing in meaningless games, so the Vikings will have to stay in contention for the Palestine native to get back on the field this season.
Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate, benched in Week 4 after running the wrong route on an interception, has caught 51 passes for 667 in the eight games since. He leads NFL receivers with 417 yards after catch.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has a 70.1 passer rating in his last eight starts. That’s the lowest in the league over that period.
18 Consecutive games in which the San Diego Chargers have a takeaway, the longest streak in the NFL.
2017 NFL Draft
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his top-10 senior safeties and top-five draft-eligible underclassmen at the position for the 2017 draft:
1. Eddie Jackson, Ala. (6-0, 195, 4.53)
2. Marcus Maye, Fla. (5-11, 210, 4.54)
3. Justin Evans, A&M (6-0, 195, 4.52)
4. Demetrious Cox, Mich. St. (6-0, 198, 4.55)
5. Tedric Thompson, Colo. (6-0, 205, 4.56)
6. Nate Gerry, Neb. (6-2, 220, 4.58)
7. John Johnson, BC (6-0, 198, 4.54)
8. Johnathan Ford, Aub. (5-11, 204, 4.49)
9. Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville (6-4, 230, 4.59)
10. Obi Melifonwu, UConn (6-3, 216, 4.58)
1. Jamal Adams, LSU (6-0, 211, 4.54)
2. Malik Hooker, Ohio St. (6-2, 205, 4.57)
3. Budda Baker, Wash. (5-10, 192, 4.52)
4. Marcus Williams, Utah (6-0, 190, 4.56)
5. Quin Blanding, Va. (6-1, 215, 4.62)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is on pace for 4,500 passing yards, which would break the TCU product’s own franchise record of 4,293 passing yards set in 2013.
Cleveland Browns rookie receiver Corey Coleman, a first-round pick from Baylor, could see time as a punt returner over the last four games.
Justin Forsett has averaged only 3.1 yards per carry in his ninth NFL season. The Arlington Grace Prep alum, cut by the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions this season, has rejoined his former coach in Houston, Gary Kubiak, after the Denver Broncos claimed him off waivers.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who had 20 sacks their first six games, have six in their past six games.
The Tampa Bay Bucs are allowing a league-low 13.8 points per game the past four weeks, while forcing 11 turnovers and scoring two defensive touchdowns.
Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus has 17.5 sacks the past 23 games, tying him for third-most in the NFL in that span.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown at least two touchdowns in seven consecutive games, equaling the second-longest streak of multiple TD passes in his career. Rodgers started the 2011 season throwing two or more touchdowns in 13 games in a row.
Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones leads the league in receiving yards with 1,253 on 72 catches. But has only five touchdowns, and Matt Ryan has targeted him only six times in the red zone.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has six touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 83.6 in six career games against the Ravens.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter has 5.5 sacks the past four games. He leads the team with 9.5 for the season.
The Cleveland Browns have allowed a league-high 45 sacks.
Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.