GREEN BAY, Wis. – It doesn’t matter how much time Scott Tolzien spends at Lambeau Field this week – he could sleep at the team facility like he did during his early days with the San Francisco 49ers – it would be wrong to expect too much from the Green Bay Packers’ latest starting quarterback.
Just don’t tell that to Tolzien, who sounded more than comfortable in his new role on Wednesday.
A week earlier, he received a promotion from the practice squad after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. On Wednesday, he practiced as a starting quarterback for the first time after coming on in relief of Seneca Wallace, who pulled his groin on the first series of Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Wallace on injured reserve, the Packers will have their third different quarterback combination – this time with Tolzien as the starter and Matt Flynn, who was re-signed on Tuesday, as the backup – in three weeks when they play at the New York Giants on Sunday.
As impressive as Tolzien was in relief, when he completed 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, all the preparation that can be jammed into one week might only go so far.
“Aaron and I have been together going on six years now,” said Jordy Nelson, the Packers' leading receiver. “Scott’s been here two months. I don’t think that’s even possible, but it’s getting better. We’re working at it every day, just talking all the time, even throughout practice and throughout the game. It’s been great. He’s a smart kid, picks things up very fast and you can tell by the way he plays.”
At 5-4 and with Rodgers’ return date still uncertain, the Packers need Tolzien to at least play mistake-free. He probably can’t afford another end-zone interception like the one he threw trying to hit Nelson on an out route in the second quarter against the Eagles.
Yet the vibe coming out of Lambeau Field on Wednesday was all positive.
“We have an optimistic mindset, and if guys are willing to pull together and tighten up and everyone’s got each other’s back type of mentality, that’s huge for a new guy like myself coming in to have that support of your teammates,” Tolzien said.
And Tolzien hasn’t even had to sleep at the stadium in order to get that.
When he first signed with the 49ers in September 2011, the former University of Wisconsin quarterback actually lived in a lounge at San Francisco’s facility for a couple of weeks.
“I signed there Week 1, so I was scrapping to learn the playbook,” Tolzien said. “I was working late hours there, and they had a nice couch, some nice TVs, so I figured why not? I wasn’t getting much sleep at that point. It made it more convenient.”
So how is he sleeping now that he’s just days away from his first NFL start? Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he sent Tolzien home at around 9:30 Tuesday night after the two spent some one-on-one time together going over the game plan for the Giants.
“He tells me he sleeps well,” McCarthy said. “I’ll take his word for that. He’s getting his proper rest. He eats well because he’s here all the time, so I’m not worried about him. The man loves it, and you’ve got to appreciate his work ethic. It’s refreshing, and it’s good for everybody, and he’s going about it the right way.”
And then there’s Flynn, who has returned to the place where he was the backup to Rodgers from 2008 to 2011. Though he has been gone less than two years, so much has changed for him. He failed to win starting jobs with both the Seattle Seahawks, who signed him to a three-year, $26 million contract, and the Oakland Raiders, who gave up two draft picks to trade for him; and this season he had a short stay with the Buffalo Bills.
Now, he’s backing up a first-time starter instead of the league MVP.
“Definitely never expected to be back here in this locker room,” said Flynn, whose last appearance for the Packers came in Week 17 of the 2011 season, when he set single-game team records with 480 yards passing and six touchdowns. “I feel very fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity. But looking back at the last year and a half, the last two seasons definitely didn’t go the way I planned on it, for whatever reason that was. But I have no regrets about it.”
Flynn has been through so much that when he returned to Lambeau Field on Monday for a workout, he said it felt like he had been gone 10 years. But when he dove back into work, “it kind of feels like I never left,” he said.
And that’s a good thing if he has to play on Sunday against the Giants.
“We’re not going to need him, OK,” McCarthy declared. “I’ve had enough of this bad karma about quarterbacks getting injured. So, Scott’s going to play the whole game.”