Hundley expects market value to keep rising

Ryan Wood
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GREEN BAY – Brett Hundley doesn’t doubt his mentor’s sincerity. Aaron Rodgers, still 33 years young, just had one of his finest seasons. Hundley saw it up close – on the field, in the meeting room, in practice.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley talks before departing for the Packers Tailgate Tour at Lambeau Field on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

All this talk about the Green Bay Packers' two-time MVP quarterback playing into his 40s? Yeah, Rodgers’ backup believes it.

“I for sure, 100 percent, think Aaron could play until he wants to,” Hundley said Tuesday morning before departing from Lambeau Field on the team’s Tailgate Tour. “He’s done great things thus far, and last year was one of his best years. You can see he’s still growing, and still Aaron Rodgers. So he’s going to be playing for a while.”

That’s great for the Packers. A bit of a roadblock for Rodgers’ backup.

Hundley knows enough to understand, no, he isn’t the heir apparent in Green Bay. Not with a future Hall of Famer planning to play another seven or eight seasons – minimum. At some point – maybe a year from now – the plan is for Hundley to become a valuable trade chip.

Until then, Hundley continues to work in as much privacy as a professional athlete can find, the obscurity of life as a backup quarterback. He split the early part of his offseason between Arizona and Los Angeles, where the former UCLA quarterback trains.

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Between workout reps, he couldn’t help but notice the NFL’s evolving market for unproven quarterbacks.

Mike Glennon signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Chicago Bears, paying him $2.5 million for every career start – and $9 million for every win – with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jimmy Garoppolo, stuck behind Tom Brady in New England, could fetch a first-round pick in a trade despite only two career starts.

There’s also the Packers’ long history of developing NFL starters. Mark Brunell. Matt Hasselbeck. Aaron Brooks. Each learned from Brett Favre.

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Matt Flynn, after four seasons behind Aaron Rodgers, got his chance in Seattle and Oakland.

Hundley knows he’s next.

“I feel like as I keep playing,” Hundley said, “and hopefully get a couple snaps in the regular season and show what I can do, (my value) will keep growing. Right now, I’ve just got to keep playing, stay focused. Obviously, there’s a lot of quarterbacks getting deals, but my job is to just stay focused and play this game.”

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It’s why Hundley spent the last two years studying an offense he’ll only run if Rodgers is unable.

Coach Mike McCarthy’s hybrid West Coast system is a significant departure from the spread attack he conducted under UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. Hundley said the game moved quickly as a rookie. The transition took time.

Maybe his biggest adjustment was vision. Running the option in college, Hundley had to be aware all around him. He had to know what was happening to his left and right.

In Green Bay, McCarthy wants his quarterbacks focused vertically, eyes always downfield.

“I’ve always been a vertical,” McCarthy said, “going back to the traditional. So that’s a big adjustment for him and his footwork, throwing the ball with his hips and shoulders and rotation, not just with his arm. Because you get guys that are on the move all the time, and they don’t have good fundamentals. His velocity has already increased.

“So he’s making gains in the fundamental aspects of quarterback play.”

Hundley said he noticed a big different last season. With a firm grasp of the playbook, Hundley focused on how to study film, breaking down defensive tendencies, things that are easier to learn with Rodgers in the same room. The next step is to take that information from the classroom onto the field.

He needs to play.

Hundley got 22 snaps spread over four games last season. Which were 22 snaps more than he got as a rookie. It isn’t much, but Hundley said even small doses of playing time help keep him sharp.

“Even though it’s not a lot, situations are against you a little bit,” Hundley said, “but it’s all worth it. Every snap I get is a learning experience, and you’ve just got to take it. You can watch film from it. You can do anything, but you got snaps. That’s what a quarterback needs.

“A lot of the times we sit back and Aaron’s out there playing, and we can go mentally but our minds aren’t working like they should on the field. So when you get back in there, it sort of jumps everything back up to speed and gets you back to where you need to be.”

McCarthy said Hundley was “green” leaving college. It’s why he slipped to the fifth round before the Packers drafted him. Most of his snaps came from shotgun, almost never behind center. His footwork was rudimentary. His processing was slow by NFL standards.

Now, the foundation has been laid. Hundley needs refinement. McCarthy said his young quarterback is entering a critical third offseason, a time that will reveal how good Hundley can be.

His test will come in the preseason. Hundley was expected to get ample playing time last August before an ankle injury kept him sidelined. He’s excited about what this preseason could bring, especially in an offense sporting two new, athletic tight ends.

“I think it opens up a lot scheme-wise,” Hundley said. “A lot of stuff that we can do on offense. We have the receivers, we have the tight ends, we have everything we need. For us to be able to utilize our guys in the best way we can, it’s going to give them a lot of opportunity when we have Martellus, Jordy (Nelson), ‘Tae (Adams), (Randall) Cobb, Ty (Montgomery) lining up and just moving places.

“It’s going to be hard to stop, and it’s going to be a nightmare for defenses to try to match up with us.”

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