Opportunity was knocking for Green Bay Packers rookie quarterback Joe Callahan.
However, with Sunday night’s preseason game against Indianapolis canceled due to field conditions in Canton, Ohio, the undrafted free agent couldn’t answer. Rather than starting and playing at least the first half against the Colts, Callahan and fellow rookie Marquise Williams might be fighting for scraps behind Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley for most of the quickly evaporating summer. While four preseason games remain, there are just seven full practices on the agenda.
“The opportunity is lost,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Tuesday night's practice. “We all know it’s disappointing on a lot of different fronts — for our fans, for the opportunity for our young players. You’re not going to get it back. That’s not really the focus. The opportunity that they had to prepare, to be the guy for the game, it’s a good opportunity for them. That’s something that they can carry forward into the Cleveland preparation.”
Callahan was disappointed — but more disappointed for his parents, who made the six-hour drive from their home in Abescon, N.J.
“Like I was last week, I’m going to prepare as much as I can and, however much time they give me, I’ll be ready,” Callahan said.
The Packers host the Browns on Friday. Rodgers, fresh off of five consecutive days off, potentially could make his preseason debut. Even if he does play, he probably won’t play long. Hundley remains out with an injured ankle and, at this point, would seem questionable or even doubtful for Friday night. So, that could leave ample playing time for the rookies.
“The quarterback position obviously is very important, maybe the most important,” McCarthy said. “It’s important to stay in tune with what’s best for your offense and also balance that with what’s best for Aaron. We’re charting his reps, particularly his throwing. The five-day period of him being off was by design, so I feel good about where he is. He feels good. Really, the focus is more on Brett Hundley and our two young guys. That’s the target we need to hit as far as giving those three men the opportunity and amount of work. I’m more worried about them three than I am about Aaron Rodgers.”
Rodgers has been sharp throughout training camp. Before Tuesday’s practice, he said he’s ready for the regular season.
“It’s a process of going through this and getting the conditioning where it needs to be,” he said. “When you’re an older player, you do a little bit extra all the time. So you feel like – maybe this is not reality – but you feel like you’re in better shape than most of the guys because you spend extra time with the strength staff. You understand how to get yourself ready to go. It’s nice to get a few reps out there over the course of the four weeks. We’ve got some guys coming back from injury at some point with Jordy (Nelson) and Jared (Abbrederis) and Ty (Montgomery). It’ll be good to get some reps from those guys in a game situation.”
However, Rodgers, added, the practice reps can be more important than the game reps because they’re more challenging.
“We’re playing against a great defense every single day, so you’ve got to see it in practice,” Rodgers said. “Want to get on the same page, but those reps are as important as a game. The other misnomer about the preseason game is nobody shows anything. Even that third preseason, there’s not going to be a lot of crazy things being shown. There’s a ton of unscouted looks that occur in the first couple of weeks of the preseason. It’s stuff they’ve been working on the entire offseason and training camp but don’t want to show in the preseason. We’re the same way on offense and defense. Going out there and playing against a team that plays two defenses in these games, it’s actually better for me to get the work in practice where I’m seeing various looks and multiple personnel groups and more exotic pressures and coverages.”
Turning back to Callahan, he was disappointed but not upset about the decision to play the game. At the midfield logo, Callahan said his sneakers were getting caught in the paint.
“It would be even worse with cleats,” he said.
Almost worse was the solution to get the paint off the field. NFL.com’s Michael Silver reported that a Packers employee noticed a warning label on the paint thinner warning of “severe burns when exposed to skin.”
Said Rodgers: “The substance they were trying to get the paint off with, I can promise you, was not health-conscious at all.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.