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Reserve tank: Time is right for backups

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Associated Press
September 1, 2010
— Aaron Rodgers knows from experience that it isn’t easy to live life as an understudy in the NFL.

Now that Rodgers finally has broken free from Brett Favre’s shadow to become an elite starting quarterback on his own, he sees a little bit of his former self in Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn: a guy willing to do what it takes to prepare as if he’s the starter every week, knowing that he might never play.


“I was telling a friend this summer, I couldn’t think of a better backup, because it’s tough to be a backup,” Rodgers said. “You have to have the right personality, the right attitude and find ways to be a leader but also be very supportive. He’s one of my best friends on this team, and he’s improved and done a great job.”


If everything goes according to plan for the Packers, Thursday night’s preseason finale in Kansas City will be the last time anybody sees Flynn at quarterback for a while.


Still, Flynn must be ready to step in if called upon, so he and the rest of the Packers’ No. 2 offense see the game as a significant chance to sharpen their skills.


“It’s definitely a big week and a week that I think all of the ‘twos’ look forward to,” Flynn said. “We’re going to get more reps than we have all camp and any of the games, so it’s something to look forward to. We’re going to have a lot of fun and hopefully go out there and execute and put up some points.”


Meanwhile, No. 3 quarterback Graham Harrell has shown steady improvement during training camp and could use Thursday’s game to solidify his spot on the team—even if it’s just on the practice squad.


Harrell was a record-setting quarterback at Texas Tech, but couldn’t get an extended, serious look in the NFL until now.


“I’ve always thought I was able to play at this level, and I just thought sooner or later I’ll get a shot to do it,” Harrell said. “The more success I have here and the more comfortable I get in this offense and on this team, the more confidence I get and the more drive or reassurance I have that yeah, I can play on this level. I am good enough, and quarterbacks from spread systems can succeed in the NFL, and it’s been a very positive experience so far, and I hope to continue to improve and do whatever it is that they ask me to do.”


In Harrell’s case, that could be a stint on the practice squad.


The Packers only kept two quarterbacks, Flynn and Rodgers, on their roster last year.


Given Rodgers’ durability and a logjam at other positions, including fullback and tight end, it stands to reason that the team will keep only two quarterbacks again.


“If they put me on the 53-man roster, obviously I’d be really happy about that,” Harrell said. “If they kept me on the practice squad, that’s still a great opportunity to learn and continue to improve my game and learn a pro style offense and get more comfortable in that.”


Flynn said he didn’t have a sense of which way the team was leaning, but he has been impressed by Harrell.


“He’s picked it up very fast and the guy can play football,” Flynn said. “He’s been good, he’s a fun guy to hang out with and be around having him in the locker room. He’s done a really good job.”


Already known for his poise, Flynn spent the offseason working on his footwork and arm strength. But he said his biggest strides came in his overall knowledge of the offense.


“I think that really has the most to do with it, just being more comfortable with the offense, knowing what plays to check to against certain defenses and getting everyone in the right play,” Flynn said. “I feel like in the games and in practice too, we’ve done a real good job of it.”


It showed in last week’s preseason romp over Indianapolis, as Flynn threw for a pair of touchdowns. And after getting an extended look during Thursday’s game, Flynn will once again become a backup.


He’ll run the scout team, just like Rodgers did, and Rodgers will be counting on him for help in the film room.


“The toughest thing is trying to find a way to still be relevant on a team where you’re not having any playing time,” Rodgers said. “But I think Matt’s going to do a great job of that.”



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