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Packers turn to Wallace at backup QB

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By Tyler Dunne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 3, 2013

GREEN BAY--The odyssey to find Aaron Rodgers’ backup has taken the Green Bay Packers through every type of quarterback. A record-setting passer from Texas Tech’s “Air Raid” offense. An all-fastballs project from Tennessee-Chattanooga. A former third overall pick trying to hang on.

For backup quarterbacks, this has been something like the “Summer of George.” So much promise, so much hope. Yet for Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young, it all ended in disappointment.

On Monday, a fourth candidate arrived. This one, the Packers hope, is competent. First, Seneca Wallace says, he needs to learn peoples’ names. Then, there’s that whole playbook thing.

“It’s tough, it’s part of the business; you never know when you can get into a situation,” Wallace said. “For me, just getting here last night, trying to pick up as much as I can. They do a great job as far as providing me with the resources that I need to be able to pick up the offense as fast as I can.

“Just going to dig into the playbook and learn as much as I can.”

The Packers are counting on Wallace’s 11 years of NFL experience to prevail. They chose the mobile, accurate veteran over other young arms on the market. And whereas Young had been a starter the majority of his career—billed a transcendent player the moment he stepped onto the NFL stage—Wallace has been a willing No. 2.

Green Bay is counting on that mileage. Wallace will need to be a helpful caddy, first. And if Rodgers were to miss time, Green Bay needs someone capable of moving an offense. The three before him managed two touchdowns on 45 preseason drives.

Next up is Wallace. Ready or not. He hasn’t taken a regular-season snap since Jan. 1, 2012.

“My confidence level,” Wallace said, “I just have to lean on my experience and I’m pretty sure if something was to happen, God forbid, that we would try to lean on some of the stuff that I learned in the past, just to try to get through it. But we’re not going to talk about that. We want the man to stay upright and continue to keep doing his thing.”

For his career, Wallace has completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, going 6-15 as a starter. At 5 feet 11 1/2 inches tall, he wasn’t a highly regarded prospect out of Iowa State. But Ted Thompson, then working with Mike Holmgren with the Seattle Seahawks, saw something in Wallace and took him in the fourth round of the 2003 draft.

From there, Wallace matured into a smart, resourceful backup to Matt Hasselbeck in the West Coast offense.

The backup job is selfless yet valued. All starters appreciate a voice of reason on the sideline, which is why one personnel executive who saw Young work on a daily basis was so baffled when the Packers signed the former Texas Longhorn. He described Young as the antithesis of an ideal backup quarterback.

Maybe Young could have grown into a decent No. 2. In Wallace, there’s little guesswork.

“The game is inches,” Wallace said. “You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities when you get them. So if there’s something that a younger kid might not have saw or maybe a call that I can pick up on that they’re using defensively in bringing certain blitzes, it’s a chess match. Whatever I can get back to him to provide him with that, I’m going to do that.”

A long career in the West Coast offense helps. Wallace is used to quick drops and even quicker decisions.

Instead of going through complete installations of the offense, Wallace will be learning game plans week to week.

“So I think it’s a little easier to learn it when it’s a game-plan week,” Wallace said. “That way you can learn the base stuff, you can learn the third down, the nickel, the red zone, short yardage, and just try to go it that way. It’s still going to be like a foreign language to me because it’s all new, but at least I can condense it to put it in my terms.”

The Packers also officially added quarterback Scott Tolzien to the practice squad Monday. After two years in San Francisco, he probably could share a few binders with the Packers. On Monday, Tolzien downplayed that potential advantage. The former Wisconsin Badger hopes he’s not here on a one-week rental.

“You go in hoping that it’s not,” Tolzien said. “That’s out of my control, so I’m going to do what I can today and tomorrow I’ll do the same.”

As for Wallace, he didn’t exactly leave San Francisco on smooth terms after one week this summer. At one point, coach Jim Harbaugh said he believed the quarterback was planning to retire. On Monday, Wallace called it all a “miscommunication” and said he called the coach to clear the air.

Wallace saw the writing on the wall, too. He told one newspaper that San Francisco brought him in to make Colt McCoy take a pay cut.

A few days later, here he is. In Green Bay. Wallace joins Rodgers and has a chance to beat San Francisco.

“I mean, it was tough,” Wallace said. “It was a tough couple weeks, but what happened is behind me and now I’m moving forward and focusing on being here in Green Bay and being the best provider as a backup to A-Rod.”



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