GREEN BAY – Head Coach Mike McCarthy this week described quarterback Brett Hundley as “excited” and “anxious” to get back on the practice field.
That’s where washing the bad taste out of the mouth begins, and it couldn’t begin soon enough for Hundley as he tries to bounce back from the worst of his four NFL starts.
“Heck, yeah. I’m always ready to get back to work and learn some more,” Hundley said after Wednesday’s practice, the first of the week in preparation for the Packers’ Sunday night game in Pittsburgh.
“I’ve gotten so much experience these past four weeks, it’s unbelievable. I’m just trying to learn and put my best foot forward. It’s been up and down, and I just want to be consistent in what I do.”
Consistency is needed to extend drives. In getting shut out by Baltimore last Sunday, the Packers picked up at least two first downs on six of their first seven drives through the first three quarters.
It was partly encouraging but mostly frustrating to see so many promising starts end poorly. Hundley threw interceptions on the opening two drives – the first one in the end zone after moving 63 yards – portending an entire day that wasn’t going to end well.
“When you watch the film, we were moving the ball,” Hundley said. “It’s not like we were three-and-out every time. We were moving it. It was just those mistakes.”
Hundley took his share of responsibility, and perhaps the toughest trial he was put through was attempting to shake off such a rough start with the game still within reach.
To what extent he did or didn’t is difficult to gauge. Either way, it might be the most valuable experience he gained in what became a four-turnover game he’d just as soon forget.
“Being a quarterback, your first couple starts, it is hard, honestly,” Hundley said of mentally handling the miscues. “You start thinking, ‘Ah, I don’t want to force this,’ and you start playing safe. But you have to understand you can’t go into a shell.”
Hundley isn’t the only player looking to bounce back in a big way.
Rookie running back Devante Mays fumbled on his first pro carry on Sunday early in the second quarter, and he didn’t get the ball again until late in the fourth with the outcome decided. Then he fumbled again, though Green Bay recovered the second one.
On his first play, Mays messed up the call. Thinking it was a handoff and not a toss play, he stepped forward at first and had to react quickly just to catch the ball, messing the play up from the start. On the second fumble, he just didn’t secure the ball with two hands going into the pile.
Mays said the errors “weighed” on him. He was upset with himself, feeling he let a lot of people down.
McCarthy indicated earlier this week he’s giving Mays a fresh start, and the seventh-round pick out of Utah State could be in line for another chance behind Jamaal Williams with Ty Montgomery (ribs) not practicing as the week began.
“I can play better than that,” Mays said on Wednesday, speaking to reporters for the first time since the game. “The coaches know I’m better than that. I made mistakes. We all make mistakes, and I just have to go out and do better this next time for sure.
“I just have to show them they can count on me.”
Hundley is out to show everyone the same thing.
He said he witnessed Aaron Rodgers last year remain a steadfast leader through the midseason four-game losing streak, which Rodgers and the team eventually turned around. Hundley knows how he conducts himself matters in times like these.
“Those are the things he doesn’t realize I’m watching, but those are things you watch as the backup quarterback,” Hundley said. “Do you walk around with your head down, or do you take it on the chin and keep rolling? You’ve got to bounce back and fight back. We still have an opportunity to do something, it becomes urgent. Every week is urgent, but even more now.
“My faith and my confidence is up above. I’m here and I’m blessed to be playing football. One game isn’t going to kill my mood or my season or our season. One game doesn’t define anybody or anything. That’s how I look at it.”