Tim Boyle: From 1 TD at UConn to 1 play away from replacing Aaron Rodgers

Spears: Sitting Rodgers in preseason is 'absolutely' a mistake (1:45)

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Whenever Aaron Rodgers holds his weekly media sessions at his locker, there’s Tim Boyle looking over Rodgers' right shoulder.

It’s not just because Boyle’s locker happens to be next to Rodgers' in the Green Bay Packers' locker room.

Boyle, 24, wants to listen.

“Why not?” Boyle said. “He’s one of the best to ever do it. I’d be silly not to.”

Boyle takes the same approach whether it’s when Rodgers talks to reporters, speaks in meetings, breaks down film or performs on the field.

“He’s a wealth of knowledge and every time he speaks, he’s got something good to say,” Boyle said. “Part of it is understanding what he says and how he handles the media. If you have a guy who you look up to in your profession and he was right in front of you talking, would you walk away or would you sit there and listen to him? That’s the boat I’m in.”

A year ago, he was a raw undrafted rookie with an unimpressive college resume who threw laser-like passes.

Now, as the Packers open this season Thursday night against the Bears, if anything were to happen to Rodgers -- say, a knee injury like he had in last year’s season opener against Chicago – then Boyle would take his first career NFL regular-season snap.

A year after serving as the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback behind Rodgers and DeShone Kizer -- which meant he was inactive for all but one game (the only game he dressed was Week 2 in case of emergency if Rodgers’ knee didn’t hold) -- Boyle beat out Kizer for the No. 2 job. He did so by not only leading the NFL in preseason touchdown passes (six without an interception) and posting an impressive 112.9 passer rating but also because Kizer didn’t make strides after a poor 2018. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst cut Kizer less than 18 months after he traded former first-round pick Damarious Randall to the Browns to get him.

“Since we got Tim last year, his progression has been pretty steady and consistent,” Gutekunst said. “He went out there this preseason and performed well. I think he's ready for it if that occasion arises.”

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Boyle strikes an impressive pose to go along with his rocket arm.

Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett met Boyle when he tried to recruit him out of Xavier High of Middletown, Connecticut. When asked what Boyle looked like in high school, Hackett said: “Big calves – just like he has now.”

The calf thing may be an inside joke – receiver Jake Kumerow mentioned them too, laughing when he brought up the size of Boyle’s calves – but his arm is not.

“I think it’s up there with the best of the best,” Kumerow said. “Tim can rip it. Aaron’s obviously as gifted as they come, but Tim can throw. Tim’s a big body, too. He’s got big calves. He does man, he’s got huge calves, so maybe he plants them in the ground and it gives him that extra grip.”

NFL quarterbacks measure arm strength in different ways. A radar gun usually isn’t one of them, but Boyle said the last time he threw on one it was with a baseball and he hit the mid-80s.

“Fortunately, I don’t play baseball,” he said.

Boyle said he and Rodgers talk about arm strength in terms of this: “How quickly the ball gets to a certain area when it needs to be there in a tight window.”

He said sometimes he needs to dial it back on certain throws.

“I think there’s not a whole heck of a lot of balls that need to be thrown super hard,” Boyle said.

They talk in terms of three types of throws.

  • A “1 ball” is, as Boyle said, “as hard as you can throw in the quick game.”

  • A “2 ball” is “an intermediate throw.”

  • And a “3” ball is “a high, go route.”

“I think the fun part for us, arm strength-wise, is that intermediate ‘2’ ball,” Boyle said. “It’s a firm kind of ball where you have to get it up and over someone. So you have to drive it just hard enough, but you have to put a little bit of air under it where it has to get over a defender jumping. When you can push it 20, 25 yards downfield on a line that means more to us than throwing a 5-yard slant as hard as you can.”

This is the same quarterback who in three years at UConn threw exactly one touchdown and 13 interceptions. He finished his college career at Eastern Kentucky, where he threw 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in one season.

And the same quarterback who, after he made the Packers' roster last September, bought himself his own Rodgers' No. 12 jersey.

Or is he still that same quarterback?

“I think his confidence and his ability to learn on the fly and learn from his mistakes, he capitalizes on those,” Packers receiver Geronimo Allison said. “One thing I can say is he listens to the coaching, and watches 12, too. He watches 12. He studies 12. He listens to 12. When 12 is talking, he kind of has that eavesdrop ear to jot down stuff and see what he’s doing and implement it – not totally copycat it, but he makes it work for him.

“Honestly, a guy like that, he’s visualizing himself in the spotlight (asking himself) how does he handle that type of environment and can I use that to my benefit?”