GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Brett Hundley doesn’t know how close he came to getting traded this offseason, and it sounds as though he doesn’t want to know.
“I don’t know; I don’t get into it,” Hundley said. “Wherever I’m at, I’m going to play. I came here for one reason. I came here to play, and that’s my goal no matter where I’m at.”
Hundley got that chance this week, and he relished it even though it was just a June minicamp. What might seem like a mundane three days of practice for some was a rare opportunity for the third-year quarterback to run the show while Aaron Rodgers and 15 other veterans were away. Coach Mike McCarthy excused anyone with five or more years of experience from the team’s mandatory minicamp.
For backup quarterbacks, that kind of experience is invaluable.
In reality, it’s been almost two years since anyone saw Hundley run the Packers' offense with any kind of regularity. In his rookie preseason, the fifth-round pick from UCLA was one of the most impressive quarterbacks of the summer. He led the NFL in preseason passing yards in 2015, and threw seven touchdowns to only one interception.
“That was just playing,” Hundley says now. “Instinct.”
Now, the 24-year-old says his footwork and his ability to read defenses are much improved.
“I’m getting into the next-level stuff, a higher level and understanding the whys of everything,” Hundley said.
He barely got to show his progress last summer because a sprained ankle ruined his preseason. He played in only one exhibition game. His only action in the 2016 regular season was mop-up duty in four games.
“Just makes you want to play more,” Hundley said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had legitimate game reps instead of just going in at the end and playing a series or two. I’ll actually be able to play a couple of quarters. I just can’t wait. It’s different during the season when you’re going in at the end and it’s like one or two plays or even a series, because you can’t get any rhythm. Now you can get into it, that’s what I really want to do.”
His quarterbacks coach, Alex Van Pelt, sees a difference in the young quarterback's play.
“A lot of talent, a lot of ability in his body; he’s catching up mentally now,” Van Pelt said. "He should have a fine camp moving forward, that’s what I totally expect.”
With Hundley entering his third season, the Packers have to start thinking about when to trade him. Another preseason like his first would bolster his value. It’s unlikely they would deal him before the trade deadline in the fall, but by the draft next spring, Hundley could be on the move. If the Packers kept Hundley for all four years of his rookie contract, they would risk losing him in free agency and getting nothing in return. If he plays the way they think he can, they could parlay him into a much higher draft pick than they invested in him.
“We obviously work hard to train our quarterbacks in how we think is the right way,” Van Pelt said. “For him to have a chance, whether it be here or anywhere else, to be successful at this level, I’d take that as a pat on the back.”
Hundley failed to produce a standout play during the three-day minicamp. If anything, what jumped out was his failed attempt at the two-minute drill. He threw four consecutive incompletions and the drill was over.
“You may view it and go, ‘Oh, that was a terrible play.’ I view it as the most wonderful play of the practice because it’s getting everybody ready to play when things break down,” McCarthy said. “It’s football, that’s how the game is played, that’s a reality of the preseason games at a higher rate. These four practices give you a real illustration of it. It’s helping our young players get ready for training camp and it’s definitely helping get ready for preseason games.”