BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Indianapolis Colts are all too familiar with what can happen when a team loses its starting quarterback for an extended period, which is one of the reasons they moved quickly to sign former Green Bay Packers backup Scott Tolzien in free agency.
Colts starter Andrew Luck played in only seven games last season before being sidelined the rest of the way by a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle. Indianapolis got solid play from 40-year-old backup Matt Hasselbeck, who went 5-3 before missing the season finale due to injury. The Colts managed to win their last guy with street free agent Josh Freeman at quarterback but fell short of qualifying for the playoffs.
With Hasselbeck having retired, the Colts are putting their faith in Tolzien, who appeared in only one game last season (completing the only pass he attempted late in a lopsided loss at Arizona) and didn’t play at all during the 2014 season.
On Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings, Colts coach Chuck Pagano listed the attributes that made Tolzien attractive.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s a tough guy, he’s a competitive guy,” Pagano said. “In talking to him and watching him, he’s wired the right way. He’s got arm talent, he’s got mobility. I think he’ll be a quick study.”
The Colts were impressed by the apprenticeships that Tolzien served, not only in Green Bay but also with the San Diego Chargers, who signed the former Wisconsin standout as an undrafted free agent in 2011, and the San Francisco 49ers, who claimed Tolzien on waivers after the Chargers released him on cutdown day that year.
“One thing he mentioned when he came down for his visit was how appreciative and how fortunate he was to be around great coaches and be in the room with the likes of (Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers and (former 49ers QB) Alex Smith and certainly Aaron Rodgers, who’s one of the best.”
Tolzien, 28, was signed to the Packers’ practice squad in September of 2013. His only extended action came that season when Green Bay lost both Rodgers (broken collarbone) and backup quarterback Seneca Wallace (groin) to injuries. Tolzien completed 55 of 90 passes for 717 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions in three games.
Tolzien was praised in Green Bay for his preparation and work ethic. Last season, he also helped nurture rookie Brett Hundley, who will inherit the role as Rodgers’ primary backup.
Now, Tolzien will take those intangibles to Indianapolis.
“I think he’s going to fit great in our building and fit great in the quarterback room and the locker room,” Pagano said.