Brett Hundley keeps competitive in backup role
GREEN BAY - Brett Hundley knows he isn’t competing for a starting quarterback job this season. That's life as Aaron Rodgers’ backup on the Green Bay Packers.
But the former UCLA standout said he still prepares himself no differently than he did when he was in college, at first competing for the Bruins' starting job and then starring in that role for three seasons. After redshirting as a freshman, Hundley started every game for UCLA over the next three years (40 straight games).
“I think the way I was always taught is that you are always competing in this game,” Hundley said. “But at the same time, you are competing against yourself as well. I tried to teach myself that in college when I was competing for those jobs. When another quarterback would make a great throw it’s not, ‘(Shoot), I have to go out there and make another good throw.’ It’s like, 'OK, I have to be the best I can be and then everything will fall where it may from there.'
“That’s my mindset each day. Just be the best I can be and do the most I can and really show what I can do.”
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Hundley got that opportunity in the preseason last year after the Packers traded up to select him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. It was considered a steal by many but initially felt like a disappointment to him, considering he thought there was an outside chance of being drafted in the first round.
The 6-foot-3, 226-pound Hundley completed 45 of 65 passes for 630 yards and a 129.6 passer rating in four preseason games, showing the athleticism and poise that prompted the Packers to draft him. He threw for seven touchdowns and just one interception and averaged 9.69 yards per attempt.
Hundley had his breakout in the third game against the Philadelphia Eagles, throwing for 315 yards and two TDs. He followed with 236 yards and four TDs the next week against the New Orleans Saints.
It was fun. Then it ended.
Hundley took a seat when the games counted. Not just behind Rodgers, but also Scott Tolzien.
He was inactive for all 16 games and two more in the playoffs, but he showed enough to give the Packers confidence they can start this season with him as the undisputed backup to their two-time MVP.
The team did not re-sign Tolzien, who now is with the Indianapolis Colts. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are Marquise Williams and Joe Callahan. Williams was just added Thursday after Green Bay released Ryan Williams.
“I want to say he had the best preseason of the NFL last year, he was out there balling,” wide receiver Davante Adams said of Hundley. “The sky is the limit for him as well. He is young as well. He has got the wheels and working with Aaron, it’s just a matter of time before he blows up.”
Hundley figures to get plenty of playing time again during the 2016 preseason, when the Packers will play five times because they were chosen to compete in the Hall of Fame Game against Indianapolis on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.
Hundley still has some work to do, most notably with his footwork. He improved greatly in that area from the time he arrived in Green Bay to the end of the season, but quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt wants to see that continue as part of the maturation process. It’s why he views this as a big offseason for Hundley, from the organized team activities through training camp and into the preseason.
“There was some stuff that he was just out there making plays, which is one of the things we liked about him,” Van Pelt said. “He played a lot of football and it wasn’t too big for him. He made a lot of plays just on ability, which is promising.
“If we can clean it up and get him playing like a Green Bay quarterback with the feet and everything … he has shown tremendous strides since last year.”
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Hundley, who turns 23 on June 15, knows there still is a lot of room for growth. He plans to write down all the things he does wrong in each practice and make sure to fix them the next day. His locker also is right next to Rodgers', and he isn’t shy about asking him questions.
The first week of OTAs this year compared to last year was quite a difference for Hundley. It’s easy for him to see how far he has come in one year.
When Hundley first stepped onto the practice field after being drafted, his accuracy was off. He seemed to get rattled under pressure and was mistake-prone. He even entered training camp No. 4 on the depth chart behind an NCAA Division III quarterback in former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater standout Matt Blanchard.
“Completely different,” Hundley said of his comfort level on the field this year. “I have a good understanding of the offense. Now, it’s more about the smaller questions. Why are we running this? What are we running this for? Compared to this, what are we looking at?
“Those are the things that once all that stuff is answered, then hopefully at the end of training camp everything will just click.”
Stu Courtney contributed