GREEN BAY – After Brett Hundley’s first practice as the Packers’ new starting quarterback, his teammates talked about the command and confidence he showed in the offensive huddle.
He displayed it in the media huddle around his locker, too.
“Our goals haven’t changed, and they won’t,” Hundley said Wednesday with a throng of cameras and microphones in his face. “Everything is in front of us, and we can still get to where we want to go to. Obviously, everybody loves 12, but our goals are the same.”
That may sound like a bold thing to say as a fresh face taking over the offense of an annual Super Bowl contender, but coming from a quarterback who had his share of success at UCLA and has learned for three years under Aaron Rodgers – he of “R-E-L-A-X” and “run the table” lore – it wasn’t the least bit surprising.
Hundley is a confident player who wants nothing more than to repay the coaches and teammates showing the utmost confidence in him heading into his first NFL start Sunday against New Orleans at Lambeau Field.
Statistically speaking, Hundley’s relief appearance after Rodgers broke his collarbone in the loss at Minnesota was underwhelming. But for Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who forcefully stated after last Sunday’s game and again on Monday that Hundley is his quarterback, the evaluation went way beyond the numbers and final score.
Hundley got tossed into a division rivalry, in a loud road venue, with three starting offensive linemen exiting due to injuries, and never let the circumstances or the struggles bother him. In the quarterback’s words, he “emptied his bucket out there,” and an 84-yard desperation drive after absorbing multiple sacks and hits meant something to the coach who’s now handing the proverbial car keys to a new driver.
“The road that he rode in Minneapolis – the adversity he was under, the number of times he was getting hit, the number of breakdowns that occurred in the game, the way he played to the final whistle – that’s something very, very encouraging,” McCarthy said. “It’s something I’m building off of.
“He just kept playing. Playing with great energy. He didn’t blink. He got better in that game. That’s my belief.”
The Minnesota game had other strong moments, too. His scrambling touchdown pass to Davante Adams tied the score in the second quarter, and he had another improvisational scoring toss to Ty Montgomery nullified on replay because Montgomery juggled the ball while going down. A 26-yard back-shoulder bullet to Jordy Nelson was probably his best throw.
As the offense now works on a game plan tailored to Hundley’s strengths, there was no mention of practice being any different, except for the guy throwing the ball.
“Brett’s a really smart dude, so there’s nothing we have to slow down or anything for him,” Adams said. “It’s just figuring out what makes him most comfortable back there.”
That could be an ongoing process, but Hundley said his first full practice as the starting QB “felt awesome,” while in the same breath he joked that his body isn’t used to needing so much recovery time after 2½ seasons as a backup.
A lot of new stuff is being thrown at him, including a Tuesday night game-planning meeting with the head coach and more Wednesday attention at his locker than he’s ever experienced.
But he’s rolling with all of it, just as he’s shrugging off the uncertainty on the offensive line, which could be in better shape come Sunday than originally thought.
While guard Lane Taylor (ankle) did not practice Wednesday, starting tackles David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (concussion) worked on a limited basis and could be available against the Saints.
“This is learning through the fire, you could call it, especially last game,” Hundley said. “Sometimes you have to learn that way. Sometimes it’s the best (way) to learn. We have to get this train rolling.”
A lot of that will fall on Hundley in a quarterback-driven league, and he knows it. As he described himself as calm, confident and ready, it sounds like he wouldn’t have it any other way.
To Hundley, it’s just a new day playing the same game.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Hundley said. “Aaron’s a Hall of Famer, and I want to be a Hall of Famer one day. I will lead this team. We’re all going to have fun. We’re all going to go out there and play football. It’s still football at the end of the day, and our goals are still in front of us.”