Seeing anyone other than Brett Favre taking snaps for the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field was an odd sight Sunday, but things became even stranger when backup quarterback Doug Pederson also went down, forcing third-stringer Craig Nall into action for the final snap of the game.
Nall, a third-year pro out of Louisiana's Northwestern State University, threw his first NFL pass Sunday, a 24-yard completion to Robert Ferguson, and has made the jump up to number two on the Packers' depth chart, as Pederson will be out of action for a while.
Favre suffered a concussion which knocked him out for most of the second half of the game against the Giants, but Pederson's injury is much more long-term. After coming on in relief of Favre, Pederson was hit by New York lineman Keith Washington as he ran out of bounds. The longtime Packer backup suffered a fractured rib as well as a fractured transverse process.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Wednesday that Pederson would be out of action for at least six weeks, and left open the possibility that the veteran passer will be placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
Just like that, Nall moves from the third quarterback, a position that rarely sees action in an NFL game, to being one snap away from taking over the reins of the Green Bay offense.
The 6-foot-3, 228-pound quarterback was thrust into working under center with the first team right away Wednesday, as Favre was given the day off of practice for rest. Sherman also acknowledged that in a week with an extra day of practice before the Monday night game against the Tennessee Titans, Wednesday was the perfect opportunity to get Nall and newly-acquired J.T. O'Sullivan more experience in the offense.
"Part of not playing Brett today is to get those guys working in case something were to happen and we needed Craig, so he needed the work today," Sherman said. "Brett will take the majority of the work the rest of the week."
Nall is excited about the opportunity that he has, although not especially about the way it came about.
"It's exciting," said Nall. "It's unfortunate that Doug got hurt and that's how it is, but life goes on. That's part of my job being a number three guy - knowing that this opportunity might come, and now it's here. When somebody gets hurt, another guy has to step in, and fortunately for me, that's the position I'm in now."
He's definitely looking forward to his expanded role in practice, and has put in countless hours of preparation over the past two-plus seasons in order to be ready for this occasion.
"It's a good opportunity for me to get better, to get some game-planning reps, some things that I haven't been able to do in the last two years, so I just look forward to going out there and performing," said the quarterback.
"Craig knows his progressions, knows what to do," Sherman said. "I don't know if we've had a backup quarterback work as hard as this guy has. He's down there early throwing the football in that net in target practice and doing different things with his feet. He's a tireless worker."
The coach went on to say that Nall even though he's been in the system for three preseasons, the 25-year old is still a bit of an unknown commodity.
"It's tough to evaluate a quarterback in the preseason when they're surrounded by players that a lot times aren't even going to be on your roster and the rush is in your face pretty quickly," said Sherman. "I don't know if you can always evaluate a quarterback at that point in the season. You kind of watch him at practice and see how he does and the true evaluation comes in the game.
"I do have to give him kudos on the fact that he wasn't warmed up, finally we realized the extent of Doug's injury and took Doug out and threw Craig in, and for one play, he did play pretty well.
Another chance the coaching staff had to evaluate Nall in game situations was the successful season he spent in NFL Europe in 2003, as he earned All-NFLE honors as the quarterback of the Scottish Claymores. Nall said that the experience he gained playing in Europe was valuable, but he knows he still has to prove him self on home soil.
"It was a good opportunity to get out there and find out your capabilities and know your limits and limitations, but it's a completely different league over here, as preseason is to the regular season," Nall said. "It's something that I can build on confidence-wise, but if you look at the big picture, it really doesn't matter a whole lot. 18 touchdowns in NFL Europe doesn't mean squat when it comes to Sunday. I have to go out and I have to play well."
As far as going out and playing well, Nall is confident that if the situation arises, he will be ready to answer the call.
"I feel fine," he said, "I know our offense pretty well. I think the biggest thing is just having the confidence of the guys in the huddle with me if I have to go in there and play."
Someone else whose confidence Nall has already gained is someone who knows a thing or two about the position - Brett Favre.
"He's been on the sidelines and has watched us do what we do," said Favre. "He'll be fine if he has to play. I don't have any concerns about that."
Nall is ready to make the step and will be ready to be called on if needed.
"I just have to take each day and do everything in my power to get better," Nall said. "I can't sit back and look at the big picture because that would kind of cloud my mind a little bit. I think I just have to take in itself that today is today, go out and do what I can today, and tomorrow is a new beginning. I'm just going to take today and go out and do the best I can."