GREEN BAY – It’s Brett Hundley’s show to run this week.
The Packers’ third-year backup quarterback is the No. 1 guy with Aaron Rodgers, plus 15 other veterans, excused from the three-day minicamp, and he likes using this opportunity to put his own stamp on the offense.
“It’s not all the time we get to rep together,” Hundley said of those from the first-string offense, such as linemen David Bakhtiari and Lane Taylor and receiver Davante Adams, who are practicing this week. “Every quarterback has a different way he plays, and now everybody gets to see the way I play.”
With so many veterans gone, these practices can have their rough moments, but that’s what Head Coach Mike McCarthy likes about them. He likes to see a QB like Hundley take on the challenge of “making plays out of tough situations.”
It’s invaluable preparation for the upcoming preseason, which Hundley is looking forward to with keen anticipation after an ankle injury severely limited his preseason action in 2016.
The three practices this week are about getting more reps, but for a backup quarterback, preseason reps are the best reps of all.
“You get to play a series during the season, at the end of the game and stuff, but you don’t get to get into your rhythm,” Hundley said. “That’s what I really want to get this preseason.
“And honestly, just take a hit. I haven’t felt what live running from a 300-pound guy feels like in a while. Your heart starts racing, and that’s the feeling you want to get.”
Handling the elevated intensity of the pro game is getting easier for Hundley now in his third season. He’s finishing his second full offseason program in McCarthy’s offense, and he can feel the game slowing down.
“Things start opening up more,” he said. “Your reads are easier, you know where you’re going pre-snap, and if (the reads) do change, (you know) where you’re going to go.
“You can anticipate things better, you can see things better. I think for me, I’ve seen that this offseason, and I’ve really been happy with it.”
The veteran teammates still here this week who know him best can see the growth he’s made, too.
“The more you learn the playbook, the more you start thinking about other things within the play – not just calling the play,” Bakhtiari said. “You can start mixing in a lot of different things whether it’s mannerisms, cadences, different checks, multiple reads.”
Hundley also has two younger quarterbacks in Joe Callahan and undrafted rookie Taysom Hill looking to him for help and guidance now, a leadership responsibility he takes seriously.
The motivation is two-fold. Hundley needs to be prepared, with the rest of the team fully confident in him, should anything happen to Rodgers during the regular season.
He’s also looking to become a full-time NFL starter at some point, and days like these are the building blocks for that future.
“Extra reps, you can’t beat it,” Hundley said. “I’m happy to be able to run the show, and I’m enjoying it.”