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Cassel familiar with Rodgers' plight

8/4/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
There's probably no way Matt Cassel can know what misery Aaron Rodgers is going through today.

But Cassel probably would like to have the chance.

Cassel is entering his fourth season entrenched as Tom Brady's backup for the New England Patriots.

Like Rodgers, he was a member of the 2005 draft class and has been stuck behind an icon.

But Cassel never has gotten a whiff of a starting job. While Brett Favre seemingly abdicated his Green Bay Packers throne to Rodgers months ago, Brady remains and should be a constant for years to come.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss with Cassel how he approaches backing a legend, waiting for a chance that must feel like it's never going to come -- at least not with New England.

"You always have to be thinking about your opportunity," Cassel said. "You always have to be ready. I have big hopes and big dreams and aspirations to do great things in the NFL. I'd be lying if I said I was content to be a backup quarterback the rest of my career."

He was a project when the Patriots drafted him in the seventh round out of Southern California, where he held the clipboard for Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

Cassel has completed 22 of 39 passes for 253 yards through his first three NFL seasons, numbers that surpass his career stats at USC.

He was a late-round flyer, whereas the Packers tabbed Rodgers as Favre's heir with the 24th overall selection.

Yet they've been in the similar situations for the past three years -- and maybe four.

For now, though, Cassel bides his time. His role is what he makes of it, so he embraces Brady's presence and uses it as a developmental tool.

"I work really hard and I take great pride in what I do," Cassel said. "I feel like I'm trying to take that next step and become a star in the NFL.

"I come out with the intent of kicking [Brady's butt] every day. If I can go out there and try to outperform him on certain days, that means I'm getting better. Every day I get to compare myself to the best. That's a great thing for me because it pushes me to be the best I can possibly be."