GREEN BAY – Rookie quarterback Brett Hundley said the best advice he’s received from Aaron Rodgers is to “have patience, and trust the process.”
The patience and process began paying off on Monday.
Taking a crack at the two-minute drill to end practice, Hundley had just 1 minute, 22 seconds to drive the No. 3 offense 65 yards with no timeouts. The fifth-round pick from UCLA pulled it off, hitting tight end Harold Spears for a 9-yard touchdown on fourth down with just a few ticks left on the Nitschke Field clock.
“From the beginning of training camp, I’ve slowly been getting more comfortable, so I feel like every day I’ve been taking a step forward,” said Hundley, who has had his share of rough moments early in camp, like any rookie QB. “It was one day, but it was a great drive, and I hope to keep building on that.”
Spears was the fifth different pass-catcher with a reception from Hundley on the drive, which featured a 26-yard strike down the middle to tight end and fellow draft pick Kennard Backman.
Hundley twice spiked the ball to stop the clock after first downs, and then he had to hurry in the final moments. After a short reception by running back John Crockett, the clock was running under 15 seconds and it was fourth down, so he had one more snap to try to score.
He calmly found Spears on a post pattern and zipped the throw in there. Hundley credited his off-the-field work as much as his on-field improvement for coming through in a big moment leading up to his preseason debut Thursday at New England.
“I think it’s just studying, really studying hard,” he said. “Obviously you have Aaron Rodgers to learn from, so when you put those things together, you can always keep learning and keep growing.
“When you get more comfortable in this offense, you can start making a lot more plays and sort of add your spin to the offense and really start showing what you can do.”
On the other side of the ball, the Packers’ outside linebackers appear to be getting healthier.
Clay Matthews was back at practice after a week off for a sore knee, while Jayrone Elliott, Adrian Hubbard and Mike Neal returned from injuries as well. Also on the injury front, on the defensive line, Mike Daniels (ankle) sat out while Mike Pennel (groin) returned. Letroy Guion (hamstring), who missed Family Night, remained out.
Before Monday, the outside linebacker position was down to just four healthy bodies (Julius Peppers, Andy Mulumba, Jermauria Rasco and James Vaughters), which is not nearly enough at a key playmaking spot in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme.
Nick Perry (groin) remains out, but the most positive sign was seeing Neal practice for the first time all year following an offseason surgery. He worked on a limited basis after sitting out all of OTAs and the first eight practices of camp.
“We have a lot of depth at that position, a lot of experience, probably one of the most experienced groups on the team,” Neal said. “We all work well together. We have an opportunity to be as good as we want to be.
“As long as we can put it all together and be ready for Week 1, that’s when it matters the most.”
Punter Tim Masthay can now concentrate on Week 1 as well. Any thoughts of a preseason punting competition ended Monday when former Alabama punter Cody Mandell was released prior to practice, setting the stage for Masthay to have the job for a sixth straight year.
“I certainly take it as a vote of confidence from the organization, but by no means do I take it as you’re guaranteed to punt,” Masthay said. “I’ve still got about 25 days until preseason is over. I’ve got 25 days to keep working to improve, keep working to perform, so that’s my focus.”
Masthay wouldn’t speculate on whether his longtime success as the holder for kicker Mason Crosby helped him win the job. Mandell struggled on a few placekick holds, and Crosby’s only misses in the early days of camp came when Mandell was holding.
As an aside, Crosby followed up an 8-for-8 showing on field goals on Family Night with a 6-for-6 day Monday on kicks ranging from 33 to 48 yards.
“I don’t have any clue as to its impact on the decision that was made,” Masthay said. “But holding is an important part of the job, and I take it very seriously, just as seriously as I take the punting."