About a year ago, Joe Callahan was getting ready for Wesley’s season-opening game.
“You know, I don’t remember (the opponent), to be honest,” Callahan said on Friday.
For the record, it was a Division III matchup at Frostburg State. On Sunday, Callahan will play – and quite possibly start – for the Green Bay Packers in the Hall of Fame Game against Indianapolis.
“I’m preparing for a little bit different of a team this week than I was last year,” Callahan said.
Starter Aaron Rodgers was given the night off on Thursday, the team’s lone day of preparation for the matchup, and backup Brett Hundley missed the last two practices with an injured ankle. That means the Packers could go into Sunday’s game with Callahan and Marquise Williams, a pair of undrafted rookies, running the offense.
“That’s exciting,” Callahan said. “I don’t know exactly how much game time I’m going to get. I’m going to be ready for whatever they ask of me.”
Adding to the excitement? As a kid growing up in Absecon, N.J., Callahan’s favorite player was Brett Favre – the headliner of this year’s Hall of Fame induction weekend.
“It’s pretty cool how that all worked out,” Callahan said. “He was my favorite player growing up. I tried to play like him when I was a kid. Then getting signed by the Packers and now this whole Hall of Fame Game the year of his induction, it’s a pretty cool experience and great to be a part of.”
No doubt the NFL and ESPN, which is televising the game, would prefer it to be the Packers’ Rodgers vs. the Colts’ Andrew Luck. That might not happen, with general manager Ted Thompson acknowledging the juggling act that coach Mike McCarthy – and every other coach around the league – faces this time of year. Luck will start for the Colts. Rodgers' preseason debut might have to wait until Friday night at home against Cleveland.
“That’s Mike’s call,” Thompson said of who’s playing. “It’s a thought-out call. You get back to that conundrum. Is it reps that you want? Is it experience that you want? Or is it good health and the assurity that you don’t have a bum ankle or something like that. It’s betwixt and between. Playing five preseason games, I do think it allows you the luxury and also the almost mandatory guideline of taking it easy in terms of reps and making sure everybody gets a fair number of reps but we don’t overload any players, because that’s not fair.”
Callahan will take all the reps he can get in hopes of sticking with the Packers in some form or fashion into the regular season. Despite the small-school roots, he’s been impressive. Callahan ended the offseason practices on a high note. With Rodgers and a group of veterans allowed to skip the minicamp, Callahan put together three strong practices. Thanks to his work between the minicamp and training camp, he’s continued to string together solid days of work.
“Trying to adjust to Aaron’s style of play and some of his mechanics early on, that was one of the things that I had to learn and try to learn as fast as possible,” Callahan said. “I think that month that we had off was critical in my ability to pick that up fast. It was something that I was able to work on with so much free time.”
Playing his first professional game – perhaps as the starter in a nationally televised matchup – Callahan knows he’ll have to rein in some nervous energy.
“First NFL snap, there’s definitely going to be some nerves but then there’s going to be a lot of excitement, too,” he said. “I’m going to try and make sure I’m level-headed and calm so I’m not firing the ball all over the place. That’s one of the things: Don’t let my emotions get the best of me.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.