And on the seventh day, he rested from all his work.
So it went last season for Scott Tolzien. He made the Green Bay Packers’ roster as the third quarterback and spent the workweek honing his craft. But on game day, Tolzien rested. He was inactive for the first 15 games of the season and was active but didn’t play in the regular-season finale or the two playoff games.
Still, Tolzien believes his career took a necessary step forward.
“It's a world of difference,” Tolzien said. “Even just having game action, that helps tremendously. But I think there's so many layers to the offense that back then I was trying to learn the ‘101’ version and now I'm trying to learn a little bit more in depth. But you've got to work in it each day.”
Tolzien turned in a strong preseason last summer, with a 67.9 percent completion rate, three touchdowns vs. zero interceptions and a 112.0 passer rating. That made it an easy decision to not only keep him on the roster last season but to choose him instead of Matt Flynn when both were free agents in the offseason.
It was a solid vote of confidence for a player who went from joining Green Bay’s practice squad to joining the starting lineup in a span of about two-and-a-half months in 2013.
“Yeah, for sure, but I'm always on the cautious side,” Tolzien said. “It's still a what-have-you-done-lately business and that's the way it should be. So, you're constantly trying to get better and prove yourself.
With a one-year, $1.2 million contract, Tolzien is a solid favorite to be Aaron Rodgers’ backup this season. However, with the team investing a fifth-round pick in talented Brett Hundley, Tolzien is going to have to prove himself repeatedly during training camp and the preseason.
“It's always a work in progress, I think,” Tolzien said. “I do feel more comfortable because you've been here and you're more familiar with the playbook, the coaches and the guys around you, but there's still so much to learn, especially when you watch Aaron. He's at such a different depth in the offense.”
Tolzien, with his renowned work ethic, has made every rep count, regardless of his role on Sundays. When he was tossed into the fire in 2013 after injuries to Rodgers and Seneca Wallace, Tolzien flashed intriguing physical tools. However, he had only a rudimentary grasp of the playbook and the techniques coached by Mike McCarthy and mastered by Rodgers.
Now that he’s immersed in his second offseason with the team, Tolzien is a different player mentally and physically. Now that he knows where the ball’s going, he can focus on the finer points of the position, such as ball carriage and weight distribution.
“I think Scott’s made great strides,” McCarthy said last week. “Scott is definitely one of the quarterbacks that I’ve seen over the years make big changes to his throwing motion, his fundamentals. You can see his footwork is intact and now he’s been able to tie all of that to his knowledge and understanding of the offense and getting timing with the players that he’s been here with in the past and creating it now with the young players. I think Scott’s off to an excellent start. It’s no surprise, just the amount of work that he’s put in. He’s definitely done a great job of taking to the coaching, the techniques and the plan to his throwing motion. He’s done a great job.”
Tolzien might not have played last season and, even at age 27, remains untested compared to most of his backup-quarterbacking peers around the league. Nonetheless, Tolzien likes where he’s at in his career trajectory because he’s worked so hard behind the scenes to get to this point.
“I think you build confidence because you feel like you’ve done things the right way,” he said. “You maximized your time in the meeting rooms, on the practice field. So, I think the preparation builds your confidence. And that improves your performance and that also builds confidence. It’s still that constant, every day, you want to keep improving yourself. You never want to be content with where you’re at.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.