GREEN BAY – The bye week was good to Brett Hundley.
After a whirlwind turn of events, and on the heels of his first NFL start, the Packers’ quarterback had a chance to catch his breath during a weeklong sabbatical spent in the Green Bay area.
He even shot his first deer in the backyard of Packers receivers Jeff Janis, an avid outdoorsman himself.
“It couldn’t have been better,” Hundley said. “It was probably the best timing, especially to get a start under my belt, get the cobwebs out and now we have the last stretch of the season.”
The Packers have handed the keys to the offense to the third-year quarterback with Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve after undergoing surgery on his broken right collarbone.
Rodgers returned to the team Tuesday and has spent time in the meeting rooms with Hundley this week leading into Monday night’s showdown with the Detroit Lions.
The conversation is the same as it’s always been, though the roles have reversed with Rodgers now the one offering tips and advice to Hundley rather than the other way around.
“He’s pretty involved,” Hundley said. “Aaron and I talk a lot, even when he was playing we still talked a lot. It’s the same. Now, it’s a different type of talk – he’s telling me stuff. It’s good for me.”
Hundley’s first start was a major learning experience. He completed 12-of-25 passes for 89 yards with an interception, along with three scrambles for 44 yards and a touchdown.
There were moments he looked like he belonged, such as his 13-yard pass to receiver Jordy Nelson and his 14-yard touchdown run, when Hundley put his head down and powered into the end zone for the score.
There also were times where Hundley looked like a 24-year-old quarterback making his first start. The key going forward is getting on the same page with his receivers, a feeling-out process that’s been happening each day in practice.
“There’s a lot of room to go to get where we want to be and where we need to be,” receiver Davante Adams said. “Brett has been doing a good job out there. We just have to do a better job of helping him out, us and the coaching staff included as well. We just have to make sure we find all the good things and get everything out that doesn’t fit Brett as well from an offensive perspective and go from there.”
Hundley agrees the Packers need to get the ball to Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, who combined for five catches on 13 targets against the Saints.
The conversations have been ongoing between Hundley and the receivers, discussing the passes he likes to throw and what routes they prefer to run. The more the two sides get comfortable with each other, the better the offense will mesh.
While Head Coach Mike McCarthy was again asked Thursday about the team’s potential interest in signing a veteran quarterback, McCarthy reiterated his support of Hundley and backup Joe Callahan, and the work and time the Packers have invested in their players since the start of the offseason program back in April.
“We need to play better on offense,” McCarthy said. “And the offense is designed around making the quarterback be successful, so I think that’s an obvious answer to the question. But you know, you have to break it down.
“I think the sample size on Brett Hundley is way too small to come to conclusions about what you think he is as a quarterback. I’m fortunate to work with him each and every day, I believe in him as a quarterback, I believe in our system.”
Hundley will have two distinct advantages in his favor this Monday against the Lions that he didn’t have against New Orleans.
He has extensive knowledge of Detroit’s scheme and personnel after seeing the Lions four times over the last two years. He also will have Rodgers standing by his side.
When asked about Rodgers Thursday, several teammates mentioned how upbeat the two-time MVP quarterback has been since returning to the team and that optimism is echoed by his apprentice.
“Obviously when a guy like 12 goes down, he’s a Hall of Famer. It’s hard to replace a guy like him,” Hundley said. “I’ve been learning from him for three years. At the end of the day, I’m praying for him and hoping his recovery goes well.
“We have to go out there and win games. Our season isn’t over. That’s exactly what I mean. We still have everything in front of us. We have a long stretch coming up, but we have to make the most of it. Our expectations are still the same.”