Vince Young hopes to prove himself with Green Bay
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY--He was once a transcendent player. You paid to see Vince Young play. At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, he had the stride of a gazelle, an aura of invincibility.
Now, in Green Bay, a once-limitless NFL career is on life support.
Young was met by a swarm of cameras at his new locker Tuesday. Only, instead of talking about the Rose Bowl, the sensational rookie season, the quest to be deliver on superhuman hype, the conversation was more about survival.
For Vince Young, the expectations have changed.
“I just want to get in here and earn the team respect and staff and coaches’ respect and continue to keep playing football,” he said. “The game that I love.”
After a full year away from the game, the 2006 third overall pick now has less than four weeks to learn a new offense, apply new footwork and excel in the preseason to earn a roster spot. This isn’t a gimmick or some scout-team resource. The Packers brought Young in to compete with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman.
For Young, it’s a steep challenge. After spending a year away from the game, the quarterback vows he is rejuvenated.
“Maturing,” Young said. “That’s the biggest thing. Back in the day, I was a young Vince. Now, I’m more mature and definitely learned from things that happened in the past. I’m married now, a grown man, 30 years old. I’m kind of like the old head in this locker room.”
In Tennessee, Young devolved from budding star to expendable within five seasons. He spent the 2011 season backing up Michael Vick in Philadelphia. Then, last summer, he couldn’t make the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster.
Young described 2012 as a deep breath, a chance to escape and reflect.
The quarterback returned to Texas and trained at the university where “it all started.” The 2006 national champion didn’t watch much NFL, typically catching games on Sunday or Monday night. He never believed his career was finished.
For one, Young says “my record speaks for itself.” In six years, he did go 31-19 as a starter, completing 57.9 percent of his passes for 8,964 yards, 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions, while also rushing for 1,459 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Training regularly, participating in Texas’ pro day last March, Young hoped a team took notice.
“Once you get to the point you quit, that’s when you have to say I probably need to put the game down,” Young said, “but overall I had to stay active, stay working and stay visible with my guys at UT and things like that. I really felt like Green Bay saw that, saw that I was still active and I didn’t give up.”
General manager Ted Thompson dismissed the notion that signing Young is an indictment of Harrell and Coleman. Still, with Young, he said there’s a certain “mystery,” an “intrigue.” And the GM added that the team did take Young’s troubled past — one that includes deep financial woes — into consideration.
On the field, there will be significant, on-the-fly adjustments.
With Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Young spent one season in a West Coast offense. Yet in Tennessee, he led a run-heavy, play-action offense. Mike McCarthy’s offense demands precise footwork and quick decision-making, skills that can require years to master. Hence, the Packers’ annual “quarterbacks school.”
After watching Young’s workout, McCarthy admitted Young would be taught different footwork in Green Bay.
“He’ll definitely be trained in it, but we have to teach him the language and get him up to speed,” McCarthy said. “He’s got to develop the timing and the relationship with the perimeter group, the blitz adjustments and running the offense.”
All in four weeks.
One executive in personnel for one of Young’s former teams said Young has “a terrible make-up” as a back-up quarterback.
The executive said he highly respects Thompson, which is why he’s “baffled” by the signing. In Young’s weekly preparation as a quarterback, he said there was more the quarterback “should have been able to know, to handle.”
He doesn’t see Young reading coverages and helping Aaron Rodgers during the course of a game.
“Something is amiss,” the executive said. “This move screams more of the state of the market right now and less of an infatuation with Vince Young.”
Either way, Green Bay is giving Young a chance to prove his doubters wrong. This marks the quarterback’s fourth chance at resurrecting a career destined for greatness that night in Pasadena. Thompson said two of his right-hand men in personnel, Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith, caught that Texas/USC title game on TV the night before Young arrived in Green Bay.
It was a “sign from somewhere,” Thompson said.
Maybe. For now, Green Bay doesn’t have much to lose. And for Young, it’s another shot.
“My whole thing is to continue to keep working and get myself better and just staying ready,” Young said. “You never know.”