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Flynn Making Most Of Extra Practice Snaps


For the second straight day on Thursday, backup quarterback Matt Flynn led the first-team offense in practice with starter Aaron Rodgers sidelined with injuries to his feet. Although Rodgers is expected to play Sunday at Tampa Bay, Flynn's time with the first unit has been valuable experience.

As Flynn leads the offense in practice in preparation for the Buccaneers, it also takes him back to the site of his NFL debut as a rookie last season, one made in less-than-ideal circumstances.

In a Week 4 contest at Raymond James Stadium, Rodgers sprained his throwing shoulder on a third-quarter run as he tried to extend the ball to get the first down. Rodgers came back on the field for the next offensive series and threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 20-14, but was clutching his shoulder as he came off the field.

After an interception for a score by cornerback Charles Woodson gave the Packers a 21-20 lead, Flynn entered the game on the next offensive series for Rodgers, throwing just once as Green Bay went three-and-out. Tampa Bay answered with a field goal to re-take the lead, and Rodgers then came back into the game one last time, only to be intercepted on his second pass.

Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham then picked up 47 yards down to the Green Bay 1, and scored on the next play to give Tampa Bay a 30-21 lead with just under two minutes remaining.

Flynn was under center for the final drive and completed two passes for six yards, but his fourth-down throw over the middle intended for wide receiver Donald Driver fell incomplete, and the game was over.

"It was a pretty tough situation," said Flynn, who finished 2-of-5 for 6 yards in the game. "Down by a couple of scores, they know we're going to be throwing it. There is a rookie backup quarterback in. They were probably pinning their ears back and coming and dropping guys out into coverage.

"I wish I could have performed a little better and had some more success, but it's just one of those things where it didn't work out and you learn from it and move on."

Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said it was a tough situation for a first-year signal caller to be thrown into, especially with the limited reps Flynn got during the week heading into the game at Tampa Bay. Flynn was one of only six rookie quarterbacks to throw a pass in a regular-season game in 2008.

"He was still learning the system, but he was our backup," Clements said. "The way it goes is the starting quarterback during the week gets most of the reps, if not all the reps, that we have. The backup or backups have to kind of prepare mentally because they don't get the physical preparation of running our plays against the opponent's defense.

"Then the situation he went into was we were behind and were forced to throw it. It wasn't the optimum situation obviously."

Even though Rodgers didn't miss any games due to the shoulder injury, his status for the next week wasn't determined until the morning of the game. Flynn took the first-team reps that whole week leading up to the game against the Falcons, and continued to take more snaps than normal in practice the next few weeks as Rodgers only practiced on a limited basis.

Flynn said that experience in practice when Rodgers was hurt contributed to his growth as a quarterback more than any other time with the Packers.

"My recollection is the first game where it was unclear if Aaron was going to play was Atlanta, and Matt took the practice the whole week and had a great week," Clements said. "We were very comfortable with him if he had to play. He picked his game up a notch and he demonstrated that he could do what needed to be done.

"I thought that week was significant for him, and then that continued on for a couple of weeks where he got most of the reps because Aaron was still not practicing. That helped his development, no doubt."

That Flynn, a seventh-round pick, was the backup as a rookie in 2008 was a mild surprise as he edged out fellow rookie and second-round selection Brian Brohm behind a strong showing in the preseason. Flynn completed 27-of-42 passes for 209 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in four games for a 100.2 passer rating.

Flynn was known more for his mobility and athleticism at LSU, where he waited his turn to become the Tigers' starting quarterback for three seasons behind future NFL draft picks JaMarcus Russell and Matt Mauck. He led LSU to the 2007 BCS National Championship with a win over Ohio State, and threw for 2,922 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season.

{sportsad300}"I think he throws the ball better than I thought initially on film (at LSU)," Clements said. "My recollection is that they didn't throw it a lot, but then when he got here and got into our system and learned it, he looks like he can make all of the throws and he has done it in practice. I think his arm has gotten a little stronger since he has been here.

"I think he has gotten fundamentally better. He didn't do a lot of drop-back passing in college, and we worked on that a lot during the offseason. Just the technique of dropping back and the mechanics of throwing, we worked hard on that. I think he has improved in that area, plus just his overall knowledge of the system has helped him feel more comfortable."

Flynn said improving his footwork and continuing to learn the Packers' offense were two of his focal points this offseason, and that work has shown up in practice this week.

"This has been great work for Matt," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I actually thought he had a very good day (Thursday). He's throwing the ball with more velocity. It's nice to see the improvement that he's made from year one to year two. The ability to throw with more velocity, playing with his feet, his time clock has definitely picked up. I thought he did a lot of good things today."

Flynn saw his most significant action as a pro two weeks ago at Cleveland when Rodgers came out of the game with a comfortable 31-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter, and completed a 12-yard pass in two attempts. While Flynn isn't looking to be back in a game anytime soon since that would likely mean Rodgers is hurt, he's ready if he gets the call.

"Anytime you get a year's worth of practice and coaching, you're obviously going to feel more comfortable and more comfortable around the guys as well," Flynn said. "I feel good about where I am at. I hope it doesn't happen, but if I am ever put in that situation again, hopefully the other players have confidence in me because I do."

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