3 Years Later, Nall Could Get Another Chance

Sunday will mark three years, almost to the day, since Craig Nall last played in an NFL regular-season game. And while Nall looks forward to the opportunity to spell Brett Favre against Detroit this week, it’s another reminder that he was supposed to have moved beyond this by now. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Lions Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 27


Sunday will mark three years, almost to the day, since Craig Nall last played in an NFL regular-season game.

And while Nall looks forward to the opportunity to spell Brett Favre against Detroit this week - which looks like a decent possibility with Aaron Rodgers' lingering hamstring injury - it's another reminder that he was supposed to have moved beyond this by now.

When Nall left the Packers following the 2005 season, he signed with the Buffalo Bills for a chance to compete for their starting quarterback job. But a pulled hamstring on the second day of training camp in 2006 thwarted those plans, and after a year as the Bills' No. 3 quarterback, and a few months this season bouncing between Buffalo and Houston as injury insurance at the position, Nall is back in Green Bay still looking to get on the field for the first time since the 2004 regular-season finale in Chicago.

That game, on Jan. 2, 2005, at Soldier Field, along with other productive backup performances against Tennessee and Philadelphia that season, had begun writing Nall's ticket to a regular NFL gig. Though he ended up spending the following season in Green Bay as a backup, that outing in Chicago against a premiere defense had cracked the door of opportunity a little wider for Green Bay's former fifth-round draft pick.

The Packers were entering the regular-season finale locked into their playoff position and looking to generate some momentum prior to their opening playoff game, and Favre was only expected to play a limited amount of time (sound familiar?). Nall entered midway through the second quarter and promptly marched the Packers 71 yards for a touchdown in five plays, the last one a 25-yard TD strike to Javon Walker.

Nall finished 7-of-13 for 131 yards and the TD that day in a 31-14 victory. And even though the subsequent opportunity in Buffalo didn't work out, Nall knows another effort like that this week could prove he deserves another shot, wherever that may be.

"Leaving from here, I had the opportunity to go to Buffalo to compete for the starting job, and I think it's totally because the year that I did play, I played well," Nall said. "I won't be taking it lightly at all. I don't think anybody else in this locker room will be. I'll study probably harder than I have all year, preparing for this game, and come game time I'll be ready and just go out there and have fun."

Nall was signed by the Packers as a No. 3 quarterback following the Nov. 29 loss in Dallas, when Favre injured his throwing elbow and non-throwing shoulder. It's turned out he's taken on a larger role in practice than initially expected because of Rodgers' hamstring injury shortly after Nall's arrival.

He's been taking essentially a month-long crash course in Mike McCarthy's version of the West Coast offense, and Sunday could be his first chance to show how much he's mastered thus far.

"This is only my fourth week being here, so a lot of this stuff is still new to me," Nall said. "I think I've handled it pretty well in picking it up and being able to function, but there's still some stuff that I'm just now being exposed to, and I need all the work I can get."

{sportsad300}It's unclear how much Favre will play Sunday. McCarthy hasn't announced a specific playing-time plan, though he has indicated various starters will get their rest. Rodgers said Thursday he isn't ruling himself out as far as playing on Sunday, but he'll have to be 100 percent to get the go-ahead because the Packers don't want to risk further injury before the playoffs.

If Rodgers isn't ready, it will be Nall's turn. Having been in this same situation three years ago, moving up to the No. 2 spot for a stretch when Doug Pederson was hurt, Nall is aware not only how important the game could be for him, but for the team as well.

"Especially after coming off a loss like last week, we want to get back on the right track so we can go into that bye week feeling good about ourselves," Nall said. "I think this game is not meaningless by any measure, especially for me, if I get a chance to play."

Nall said it's only natural for a backup quarterback to put in a little extra preparation time when his chances of playing appear good, so another glance at the play script or an extra trip to the film room will be part of his plan this week.

And even though his future may be even more uncertain now than it was the last time, he'd be thankful for any chance to exercise some control over it, even if it's for just a quarter or two.

"I'm constantly thinking about it, especially after this year when my job security has been up in the air," Nall said. "These opportunities don't come around too often. I think God put me here to be in this position, so I can go out there and possibly play in this game this weekend.

"That's the opportunity sitting before me and I want to go out and make good. I don't want to stress too much about the importance of it, but I think it's very important for me personally to play well."

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