GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This was supposed to be the summer of Brett Hundley. More than halfway through the preseason, we’ve seen barely more than one quarter of the Green Bay Packers' newly crowned No. 2 quarterback.
A recurring ankle injury wrecked what should have been an lengthy opportunity in an extra-long preseason to prepare Hundley for his first season as Aaron Rodgers' backup. He already missed two weeks of practice and two preseason games (one that was called off in Canton, Ohio, and last week’s home opener against the Browns).
He lasted just three plays into his third series Thursday, when Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack rolled on his left ankle -- the same one he hurt in practice Aug. 1 -- and knocked him out of the game. Hundley didn’t return, and with Rodgers likely to make his preseason debut Aug. 26 at San Francisco, the Packers should be at least mildly concerned that Hundley didn’t get the work they wanted for him this summer.
“You’re stating the obvious,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Thursday’s game. “He’s a young player, a second-year player. There’s an opportunity to be our No. 2 quarterback. So, yeah, these are valuable reps. But, hey, injuries are part of the game.”
At least this time McCarthy doesn’t think Hundley’s ankle injury is as severe as it was the first time around.
This isn’t the summer of 2013, when the Packers came out of training camp without a capable backup. They dumped Vince Young and B.J. Coleman at the end of the preseason and brought in Seneca Wallace, who started the game after Rodgers broke his collarbone. Wallace got hurt and gave way to Scott Tolzien, who was benched in favor of Matt Flynn.
This time, the Packers' problem would be if Hundley’s ankle doesn’t come around in time for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Jacksonville. Joe Callahan, the undrafted rookie from Wesley College, is a nice story, but would the Packers really feel comfortable going into the regular season with him as their backup?
Callahan struggled against the Raiders’ first-string defense before having some success against the backups in Thursday's second half.
“I kind of found out the hard way,” Callahan said when asked what it was like to a face a starting defense. “I made a rookie mistake on one fourth down [when he threw the ball away], and I might have held on to the ball a little too long and I got hit pretty hard by Khalil Mack. But it was a good learning experience, and I got the chance to see where I need to grow as a player.”
Hundley would have played the entire first half, so he missed out on about a quarter of action. And he would've started the Hall of Fame game and last week against the Browns if not for his bum ankle. But his first series of game action since he led the NFL in preseason passing last year went well. He directed a 14-play, 74-yard touchdown drive to open the game, although Eddie Lacy did most of the work, carrying nine times for 45 yards on the possession.
Hundley’s best play was the one that knocked him out. Just before Mack rolled up on his ankle from behind, he delivered a pinpoint, back-shoulder throw to Davante Adams for a 31-yard completion down the right sideline. Hundley completed 5 of 7 passes for 67 yards, but that’s the extent of his preseason work to date.
“Brett’s an excellent quarterback,” Lacy said. “He gets it. He’s real calm. He gets the plays in there. If it’s a pass play, the ball’s pretty much right on the money. Just knowing that he’s back there behind [No.] 12, we know when he gets in there we can pretty much pick up where we left off.”
They just need him in there.