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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — With Colin Kaepernick dealing with tightness in his throwing shoulder and Thaddeus Lewis out for the season with a knee injury, the 49ers signed free agent quarterback Christian Ponder on Tuesday.
Ponder, 28, hasn't appeared in an NFL game since October 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings.
San Francisco was down to two healthy quarterbacks, Blaine Gabbert and Jeff Driskel, as the team traveled Tuesday to Denver for two joint practices with the Broncos ahead of their preseason game Saturday.
Kaepernick hasn't thrown during practice since Aug. 10 and was held out of the preseason opener Sunday against the Texans. Prior to the injury, he was competing with Gabbert to start under first-year coach Chip Kelly.
"It's really a day-to-day thing," Kelly said of Kaepernick's injury. "It's nothing that's a long-term thing. It's just a day-to-day thing. He says he feels better as we go, but we're not going to push him so that we can make a proper evaluation of him."
Ponder becomes the third quarterback from the 2011 draft class on San Francisco's roster. He was taken 12th overall by the Vikings, two spots behind Gabbert and 24 selections ahead of Kaepernick.
In 2015, Ponder played in the preseason with the Oakland Raiders before his release Sept. 5. He was signed by Denver on Nov. 25 and released Dec. 8 after being inactive two games.
Lewis suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the second half of the 24-13 loss to Houston and was placed on injured reserve to make room for Ponder. Against Houston, Lewis led 49ers quarterbacks with 97 yards passing while completing 12 of 21. With Kaepernick out, Lewis replaced Gabbert after three possessions.
"I'm just really disappointed for (Lewis) because I thought he played well yesterday and was really starting to come on," Kelly said Monday.
With Minnesota, Ponder appeared in 38 games and made 36 starts. He completed 59.8 percent of his passes averaging 175 yards per game with 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. The Vikings used the 32nd overall pick in 2014 on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who started 12 games as a rookie and all 16 last season. They finished 11-5 and reached the playoffs.
Kaepernick said the tightness is a result of his return from three surgeries that limited his participation in the 49ers' offseason program.
"Taking it day-by-day," he said. "Made a lot of throws, especially coming back from three surgeries, so want to make sure that we're staying ahead of things."
Kaepernick had a procedure on his left shoulder in November that landed him on injured reserve. In January, he had two more on his left knee and throwing hand. He wasn't cleared to participate in full-team drills until the start of training camp July 31.
"My arm's always snapped back quick, so not too concerned about it," Kaepernick said.
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