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Danny Etling has enjoyed every bit of his remarkable ride to Green Bay

Stability brought out the best in Packers’ No. 3 quarterback this summer

QB Danny Etling
QB Danny Etling

GREEN BAY – In his small space inside the Packers' auxiliary locker room, Danny Etling is filled with an overabundance of gratitude.

There's veteran quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who's been an open book the past eight months and the position coach, Tom Clements, who provided a compass for Etling to improve his fundamentals and footwork this offseason.

But most of all, the 28-year-old quarterback is appreciative of the opportunity the Packers gave him – not just to compete for a job, but also having the ability to finish the preseason with the team he started with back in the spring.

"It's actually the first time where I've gotten to be in OTAs and then actually played in a preseason with (that same) team since my rookie year," Etling said.

"Because usually something happens that's out of my control and I'm with another team halfway through camp and I'm scrambling to learn, on your own, knowledge of plays."

Etling has been on a remarkable ride the past four years, apprenticing under Rodgers, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson. But he's also been on eight different teams, including the Canadian Football League's BC Lions, since being drafted in the seventh round by New England in 2018.

It was during that first year in England that Etling famously ran for an 86-yard touchdown during the Patriots' preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills – a clip that resurfaced over the weekend after he ran for a 51-yard TD in Green Bay's 20-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints last Friday.

The following year, however, Etling was briefly moved to receiver before being released by the Patriots. It began a familiar August pattern for the NFL hopeful.

Two days later, Etling was claimed by Atlanta. He moved back to quarterback, learned the West Coast offense and spent a year bouncing between the Falcons' active roster and practice squad.

The following August, Etling was then cut by the Falcons and claimed by Seattle, where he spent the year on the Seahawks' practice squad.

Next August? You guessed it. Etling was cut by Seattle, claimed by Minnesota and released again three weeks later. When the carousel stopped, Etling landed in the CFL.

"I just figured I'd learn the game," Etling said. "I was like, 'Why not try it?' I'm never a 'no' guy. I'm still waiting on my opportunity. Maybe this could be it? You're always just searching for the opportunity however it comes."

It wound up as just a three-week stint north of the border as the Seahawks called Etling back. He spent two weeks on Seattle's practice squad before moving onto Denver, Green Bay, Jacksonville and finally Green Bay again.

Through the various stops, Etling developed his own strategies for handling the transient life of being a journeyman quarterback and the learning curve associated with a new playbook.

"You understand the gig," Etling said. "I would go into each stop and I'd have my checklist of things that I would prepare myself for – how am I going to handle cover zero? All these things that I know NFL defenses would throw at me.

"I'd have the things that I'd ask the coaches that would be a checklist and I'd mark the things that I felt comfortable with and just be ready to play if I needed to."

Signed to a futures contract with Green Bay, Etling returned in April with an extreme sense of urgency. With Clements returning to the Packers, Etling took to heart every word the veteran QB coach said, especially as it related to his footwork.

For four years, Etling had been so focused on keeping his head above NFL waters that his individual growth had sort of taken a backseat. It wasn't until this past spring the 6-foot-3, 222-pound quarterback had a chance to slow down and re-learn the nuances of his position.

"I think he kind of sees the game through the lens of almost a coach," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He's had a whole offseason with us, he's had all of training camp and you've seen the growth on a daily basis. Although he's had limited reps, I feel like he's maximized those when given those opportunities."

While incumbent third-string QB Kurt Benkert was released after the offseason program, Etling felt no greater sense of security. After all, he knew all too well how precarious things can get for backup QBs like him in August.

So, he's simply refused to blink. In the preseason opener against San Francisco, Etling completed 6-of-8 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. He only played one meaningful drive last Friday vs. New Orleans, but his 51-yard TD run was one of the game's biggest highlights.

Rodgers certainly took notice. The MVP quarterback was doing an interview with the TV broadcast when Etling saw the safety crashing off the left edge, tucked the ball and ran it to the end zone.

"He's a gym rat, and that's what you gotta be when you're a backup quarterback and fighting for a spot on the active roster," said Rodgers of Etling.

"He just really puts the time in, and I've really enjoyed having him in the room. He's thoughtful. He asks a lot of questions. Good questions, and he's always asking the 'why' and the 'why' is so important to figure things out in this league."

Etling reminds Rodgers of former Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien, whose work ethic and attention to detail propelled him to a seven-year NFL career after going undrafted in 2011.

This Thursday, the Packers wrap up the preseason in Kansas City, where Etling will make his final case for roster consideration behind Rodgers and No. 2 QB Jordan Love.

Green Bay has carried three quarterbacks on its Week 1 roster in five of the last eight seasons, but regardless of what happens, Etling remains forever grateful for the summer of 2022.

"I'm definitely excited to go out there and play one last time," Etling said. "I just try to have so much fun out there when I'm playing and enjoy being with the guys. Because that's the thing you miss the most when you're out of it."

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