Nall welcomes competition

Craig Nall has been down this road before. The backup quarterback again is heading into training camp with no guarantee that he'll be on the final roster. The odds again seemed stacked against him with popular challengers.

Last year, Nall had to beat out Tim Couch, the former No. 1 pick of the 1999 NFL draft, and Scott McBrien for the third and final roster spot at quarterback. The year before, Nall beat out Akili Smith, the No. 3 pick in the 1999 NFL draft.

When the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers with their first-round pick in this year's draft, Nall was a little frustrated but took it in stride. Rodgers was regarded by many draft experts as a top 10 pick, but slid down through the first round before the Packers used the 24th overall pick of the first round to select him.

Nall was at his off-season home watching the draft on television, checking to see if any of his college buddies and other friends would get selected. Instead, the Packers placed a big hurdle for him to clear in his quest to serve as Brett Favre's backup this season.

"If I had to make the choice, I probably wouldn't pick him," said Nall. "At the same time, I understand the coaches not being able to pass on a guy like that. You've got talent, obviously, and it's kind of hard to let him go."

Nall, entering his fourth season, had good reason to be a little irked. He worked his way up to the No. 2 spot behind Favre during the season last year after veteran Doug Pederson was injured during a game in early October. In his first and only five games that he has played for the Packers, Nall completed 23 of 33 passes (69.7%) for 314 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception. He finished with a passer rating of 139.4 and his 33 attempts were the most ever by a Packers quarterback in a season without an interception.

Most of Nall's playing time came when the game was decided, but when given a chance to play early in Green Bay's season finale in Chicago, he did well. Nall completed 7 of 13 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown as the Packers whipped the Bears.

The biggest edge Nall has over his competitors in camp this season – Rodgers, J.T. O'Sullivan and McBrien – is the experience he has in the Packers system. He also played in NFL Europe in the spring of 2003, which adds to his game experience.

Nall got a break in the post-draft minicamp when he was able to take a majority of the reps in practices for veterans a few days prior to full-squad practices. Nall split snaps with O'Sullivan because Favre was excused from the camp by Coach Mike Sherman.

When Rodgers arrived, Nall's reps diminished, but he got a good look at the player he likely will have to beat out to be No. 2 behind Favre.

"The only thing I can control is what I do out there on the field," Nall said. "I can't control Aaron's rate of learning. I know he's going to go through some tough times picking up what we're learning. But I can't worry about if he has a bad day or a good day. I have to just keep plugging away and do what I do best."

Nall started strong in the post-draft minicamp, but was intercepted a few times in other practices.

"Nall is just a fighter," said Sherman. "He is going to always fight and always compete and work hard, and that's his M.O.

"He and I visited prior to Aaron getting here, and I told him, ‘You can't look over your shoulder and you just have to be who you are and play within yourself, and you've done a great job.' I thought he had a very good season for a backup last year. When he had to step in, he stepped in and did a good job. So, I think that developed confidence in him where he can carry that into this season.

Nall feels that he can be a starter for the Packers, or any other NFL team.

"I'm confident in what I'm doing and getting better every day."


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