QB Matt Flynn
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that the competition at backup quarterback will continue on throughout the season, but as of now rookie Matt Flynn will be working as the No. 2 signal-caller as the team prepares for the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night.
Flynn, who was selected by the Packers in the seventh round out of LSU, spent the entire offseason and training camp as the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Aaron Rodgers and fellow rookie Brian Brohm.
But Flynn continued to look more impressive as the preseason went on, finishing 27-of-42 for 209 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as he posted a 100.2 quarterback rating.
He capped off the preseason with a strong showing last Thursday against Tennessee, throwing two touchdown passes, including one to wide receiver Jake Allen as time expired to cap off a 13-play, 85-yard drive and pull the Packers within two points. Wide receiver Johnny Quinn was unable to get both feet in bounds on Flynn's pass attempt for the two-point conversion that would have tied the game.
"I think Matt, number one, has picked up our offense at a very good pace, better than most guys that I've been around," McCarthy said. "I like the way he makes plays with his feet. He can get you out of a bad play. Instinctive, very calm, his disposition is excellent. Pocket awareness and is comfortable in the pocket.
"(He) played in a wide-open offense in college, so he has the ability to get out in space and do some things. I've been impressed with him so far."
Flynn, who didn't become the full-time starter for the Tigers until last season as he backed up future NFL draft picks Matt Mauck and JaMarcus Russell, led the team to a national championship in his lone season directing the offense. He threw for 2,922 yards and 27 touchdowns and led LSU to four come-from-behind victories.
McCarthy said that he has seen some similarities between Flynn and Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, whom McCarthy worked with in New Orleans during his tenure as the offensive coordinator.
"He plays the game with an edge," McCarthy said. "He's aggressive. Some people refer to it as moxie. The thing I liked about Matt, because really the first exposure was watching the combine and the combine film, I thought he was very fundamentally sound. I liked his mechanics, I liked his athletic ability."
Like many rookie quarterbacks, Brohm struggled in the preseason as he completed only 19-of-42 passes for 155 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns.
McCarthy said that while he has seen improvement from Brohm during the preseason, he needs to work on performing some of the fundamental aspects of the position more consistently.
"The ball wasn't coming out of his hand consistently, and I think he was just trying to do everything right, instead of just playing," McCarthy said. "I saw him do those things in Tennessee. Throughout the preseason, Brian has improved, for whatever the statistics are or whatever the opinions are, there's improvement in Brian Brohm's play as he's moved through the preseason."
Now that the Packers are moving into their regular-season practice schedule, the reps for the backup quarterbacks become more limited, and McCarthy said he didn't feel it was to the players' benefit to continue to split them equally.
Even though Flynn will now be getting increased work in practice, McCarthy emphasized that the pecking order behind Rodgers is not set in stone.
"Matt has to hold the spot, and Brian will have an opportunity to get the spot back," McCarthy said. "Competition is healthy. They're both young. I've said it all along, they just need to play. They need reps."
The Packers would have welcomed the sight of run-stuffing defensive tackle Ryan Pickett back on the field whenever it arrived, but with the defending No. 1 rushing team in the league coming to Lambeau Field on Monday night for the season opener, his return is even more important.
Pickett, who was sidelined for all of training camp and the preseason games because of an injured hamstring he sustained before camp, practiced for the first time this season on Monday.
"I felt pretty good getting back into the routine," Pickett said. "I felt comfortable out there. Everything went well today, so we'll keep building up until Monday."
The opener will bring the Vikings, who set a franchise single-season record and led the NFL with 2,634 yards on the ground last season, and the 2007 offensive rookie of the year, running back Adrian Peterson. Even though Pickett has not had any work during the preseason, he said he was not concerned about jelling with fellow defensive tackles Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole.
"I don't think so because we're good friends off the field, so it's not like I don't know them," Pickett said. "I know what things Johnny would do or what things Cole would do while he's in there, and they know things I do. That's not going to be a problem."
Pickett said he had to pass a series of tests before he was cleared to return to the practice field.
"They put me through a lot," Pickett said. "They put me through a lot of running and agility drills, hitting the sled, going live with a lineman one-on-one, pass rushing and a lot of stuff to show I was ready."
Tribute to Upshaw
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Monday that all NFL players this season will wear a jersey patch in honor of Gene Upshaw, the late Pro Football Hall of Famer and executive director of the NFL Players Association, who died on August 20 at the age of 63.
The round patch will contain the letters "GU" and the number "63" (Upshaw's uniform number with the Oakland Raiders) in white on a black background. It will be positioned on the left chest of players' jerseys.
"Gene was a truly unique, one-of-a-kind contributor to the NFL," said Commissioner Goodell. "No one in our game has ever combined Gene's level of achievement both as a Hall of Fame player and as an executive leader. No one did more for NFL players than Gene Upshaw. He deserves our everlasting respect and thanks."
In addition to Pickett, center Scott Wells and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila returned to practice on Monday afternoon.
Remaining out were safeties Atari Bigby (ankle) and Charlie Peprah (hamstring), guard Josh Sitton (knee), linebackers A.J. Hawk (chest) and Tracy White (ankle) and defensive end Jeremy Thompson (unspecified). Tackle Chad Clifton participated in only the beginning jog-through portion of practice, but was not in pads.