The Green Bay Packers brought in 21 players for tryouts for this weekend's rookie orientation camp.
They face long odds. With 77 players on the 80-man roster, coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson can sign three. But, that's no guarantee they'll be allowed to compete during training camp. That's because the eight draft picks don't count against the roster until they are signed. So, for each pick signed, someone has to go.
The Packers brought in two quarterbacks to run the offense: Utah's Brian Johnson and Tulsa's David Johnson. They shared one locker in the Packers' auxiliary locker room during the camp, adding to their interesting dynamic.
There's no guarantee the Packers will even bring in a fourth quarterback. Not with backups Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn entering their second NFL seasons and needing as many reps as possible to be ready in case young starter Aaron Rodgers is unable to play. If the Packers decide to sign a quarterback, the opportunity would go to the Johnson who performed the best during the three practices.
"Yeah, that's how you've got to see it," David Johnson said of a one-on-one competition. "Right now, they've only got two of us in here. I don't know exactly what they're looking for, but obviously, we're having a nice little friendly competition. We're slapping each other on the butt and hoping each one of us does the best. But at the same point, it's all about competing against the other one and wanting to beat the other one out."
Based purely on arm strength, David Johnson would be the front-runner. But his size (he's less than 6-foot-2) and inexperience running a conventional offense are marks against him. He threw for more than 4,000 yards with 46 touchdowns last season, but production in a spread offense rarely translates to the NFL.
Asked on Sunday morning before the camp's third and final practice, McCarthy seemed to be leaning toward moving forward with just three quarterbacks.
"We went with three quarterbacks in last year's training camp really because with Brian Brohm and Matt both being rookies, we wanted to make sure to maximize their opportunities; plus with Aaron being a first-year starter," McCarthy said. "We've talked about possibly going again with three this year because of the youth of those three guys.
"But I'll say this about Brian and David Johnson: I think they've done a very good job with their two opportunities here. You always look for the quarterback to be able to walk out of that classroom and go down there and conduct practice, and they've done a very good job of that, I will say. You can see why they were both very productive players in college. They're both very instinctive with the football. They see the field very well. We will go with three like we did last year or potentially add somebody. The 80-man roster really makes it a challenge (to keep a fourth)."
All 40 of the rookies participating this weekend had the challenge of running a playbook they had barely seen. That was especially true for the quarterbacks. David Johnson got his playbook on Thursday and was on the field the next day running it.
He hopes he's done enough to stay in Green Bay rather than plotting the next move in his career. But he knows he might be in a battle that neither he nor Brian Johnson will win.
"I'd love it. That would be great," he said of being to a contract. "I would really enjoy that and obviously would jump on a great opportunity. Hopefully, something good happens throughout the summer and maybe they invite me to training camp. If that comes about, it would be a great opportunity and I'd be happy to be here."
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