MINNEAPOLIS – The jumble of emotions inside Brett Hundley were still evident right after the game.
Hundley had just finished the last three-plus quarters of a 23-10 loss for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and was now facing the prospect of this Green Bay team being his for possibly the rest of 2017.
The task won’t be easy, but neither is dealing with what just happened to his good friend and mentor, who was slow to get up after a first-quarter hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr and had to be carted off the field with a broken right collarbone.
“Aaron is my brother,” Hundley said, his voice a little emotionally shaky at the postgame podium. “It’s hard to see him go down. I’m praying for him.”
Hundley tried to get in a few words with Rodgers before the cart disappeared, too.
“I let him know that I love him,” Hundley said of their brief sideline conversation after the injury. “I’ve got him, and we’ll go from here.”
Having to pick up the pieces against Minnesota’s top-notch defense, on the road no less, was a Herculean first assignment. Plainly speaking, it didn’t go well, and the final score and statistics reflected as much.
This was the first meaningful regular-season action of Hundley’s three-year career to date. But the 2015 fifth-round pick from UCLA was far from discouraged after the loss, because it all changes starting Monday.
He’ll be the guy under center, the guy around whom the game plan will be built, and the guy taking all the practice reps during the week to get ready. The difference between that and all the preseason action and limited practice snaps as a backup is “night and day,” he said.
This is Hundley’s chance to prove he can be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL, and in his own calm, cool, southern California way, he promised to make the most of it, Sunday’s disappointing results notwithstanding.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time now,” Hundley said. “Obviously we didn’t get the job done today, but we’ll be better. We’ll be better.
“I’ll be better, especially with a full week to prepare. I believe in my offense.”
It would help Hundley if the musical chairs along the offensive line stop, but on a day the Packers got their primary starting five on the field together for the first time, three of them left with injuries.
So as Green Bay’s health up front remains on the weekly watch list, Hundley will have to get in sync with whoever’s available to work with him.
He’ll also have Rodgers at his side at every meeting and in his ear on the sideline, just like Rodgers was with Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and eventually Matt Flynn back in 2013, when he missed seven games with a broken left collarbone.
This one’s in the throwing shoulder, of course, so the prospect of being out much longer looms. Rodgers appeared to have some words for Barr as he left the field, presumably because he thought the hit was unnecessary after the pass was thrown on the scramble.
“I know Anthony Barr personally,” said Hundley, his former teammate at UCLA, “and I wouldn’t imagine he’s a dirty player.”
As for Rodgers not taking kindly to the play, “I’m sure he didn’t,” Hundley said. “Who would?”
Who would have thought Hundley would have the Packers’ season in his hands one week after classic, down-to-the-wire Rodgers dramatics had put Green Bay in first place in the division?
But that’s the NFL, and no one is going to feel sorry for the Packers. It’s Hundley’s team now. Let’s see what he does with it.
“I love football. I love this sport. I know what comes with it. I know there’s injuries in the game,” he said. “For me, it’s an opportunity. Unfortunately, Aaron got injured, but it’s part of football.
“I’ll prepare and I’ll be ready.”
Complete game coverage