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Packers Have Valuable Insurance Plan In Nall


Since 1992 when Brett Favre began his career with the Green Bay Packers, you've been able to count on two things. One, the team has always been competitive, and two, there's a better chance you'd win the lottery than see another quarterback start a game.

While the second statement may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, consider that Favre (including playoffs) has now started 217 consecutive games. On occasion, he has missed some snaps during that streak but never a start.

With that in mind you may get an idea of what Favre's backups have gone through during the streak. Not only have they been able to relax knowing the odds of playing were very low, but also in many cases they probably became bored. After all, carrying a clipboard can only be so exciting.

In these cases, backup quarterback Craig Nall said that you just have to try to improve and wait your turn, no matter how long that wait may be. For Nall, that may be the right attitude to take as he already has maneuvered his way into being Brett Favre's primary backup this season. That may not be eye-opening at first, but it's far from where Nall was in August.

The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Nall is in just his third season, but when training camp concluded, there was no guarantee that he'd be a Packer any longer. Because he had to overcome a hamstring injury and miss valuable time this summer, there just wasn't much Nall could do to better his chances of making the team. Once again, he just had to sit and wait his turn, which wasn't easy according to Nall.

"Just because of the time frame it definitely made it hard," Nall said. "I had to sit out two and a half weeks and watch guys get better at my position knowing that I would have to come in and give it all I had and swing the bat. If it was good enough so be it, if not, I gave it my all."

That doesn't mean Nall wasn't concerned about his roster status.

"I was worried a little bit just because they didn't have a whole lot of tape to assess and grade made me on," Nall said. "Thankfully I got the majority of reps during the second minicamp so they could kind of go on that. I had a pretty good second minicamp, which I think probably factored into the decision."

After a training camp battle, Nall did indeed crack the roster. In addition to that, he has found playing time this season and now with Doug Pederson being on injured reserve with a cracked rib and an injured back, Nall is one step closer to getting on the field.

"It feels good to get the chance to move up the ladder a little bit," Nall admitted. "Unfortunately Doug had to get hurt for that to happen, but in this business, that happens. At this stage in my career, I think it's important for me to progress in that way."

Nall certainly has the talent to progress even more as his stint in NFL Europe in 2003 suggests. In his time with the Scottish Claymores, Nall led the league in passing with 2,050 yards and had 18 touchdown throws in 10 games. Those stats earned him a spot on the All-NFL Europe team.

The numbers speak for themselves, but Nall had no problem keeping his time in Europe in perspective.

"When I first came back from over there I had a good season and it obviously helped with my confidence, but at the same time I had to relearn our offense," Nall recalled.

"There were some similarities but the terminology was different. I think the biggest thing is if I can look back and recall some of the situations I was in, yeah maybe it helps, but it's a completely different game over here than in Europe."

Whether it helped him then or whether it will aid him in his NFL future, there is no denying that Nall was dominant in NFLE. What's most impressive is that at one point in his career, he didn't even know if he was going to continue playing the game.

The low point came at Louisiana State University where he spent most of his time on the bench. All of this was tough to swallow, considering Nall was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the country when he was a senior in high school.

"Starting two games in four years at LSU was pretty rough," Nall explained. "I was almost at the point of quitting (he later transferred to Northwestern State).

"Thankfully I have a pretty good support staff in my parents and friends that really talked to me and tried to keep my confidence because they obviously saw potential in me," Nall added. "I have to thank them for me being here today."

Where Nall is today can be attributed to many things, but perhaps no factor is more important than his willingness to stick with his football dreams. He admitted that being hurt this summer and facing adversity with LSU tested his will to keep going, but he's happy he did.

"I think first and foremost I wasn't willing to give in and not willing to give up," Nall explained. "You have to give it your all, know that God is in control, and do all you can within your power and not worry about the rest."

Now, Nall is just trying to take advantage of every opportunity he receives. Earlier in the season against the Titans, Nall came on and threw the first touchdown pass of his career.

"It was bittersweet," Nall explained. "It was cool because I reached one of my personal goals, but at the same time we were losing so it was kind of a short lived feeling. It was something to build on and it gives me a little confidence. If I get another chance, I know I can do it again."

Whether that happens is anybody's guess because Favre is still one of the most durable quarterbacks in the game and no one really knows how much longer he will play. While most backups probably would secretly hope the starter hangs it up, Nall is trying to take advantage of the time he has with Favre.

"He's been great to me," Nall said. "Whenever he does something that I may not catch on to, he will explain it. If he sees something that I am doing maybe a little bit different than him, he will come over and explain why he's had success doing it in a little different way. He's been a teacher, a friend and a great role model."

Nall doesn't know if he ever will get the chance to be a starter with the Green and Gold, but when asked if he'd like to, he leaves no doubts.

"I'd like to think so," Nall said. "I get along well with the coaches, I think we have great guys in the locker room. I love everything about Green Bay, so hopefully I get the chance to stay here.

"At the same time, I am realistic about it and know that it might not be a possibility. If I had my choice though, I'd stay here."

It's difficult to say where and when Nall will get his chance, but it's clear that he will make the most of it. He has responded to challenges in the past and there's no doubt he will do it again. After all, that support system he talked about is still firmly in place.

"After I threw a touchdown against Tennessee, I had probably 10 messages on my phone from various people calling to congratulate me on seeing my dreams and goals come true," Nall said.

"They are proud of me, especially my parents. My dad almost broke down and cried when I talked to him on the phone because he was so proud. But it's good to have people like that behind you."

You get a feeling the Packers feel the same way with Nall entrenched as the backup behind Brett Favre.

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