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Packers need better play from QB Hundley

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley (7) warms up at Don Hutson Center. (Jim Matthews/ Green Bay Press Gazette via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Rob Reischel

The Sports Xchange

GREEN BAY — Back on Oct. 16, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stood before reporters and insisted Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan were the quarterbacks to lead his team in the absence of Aaron Rodgers (broken collarbone).

When asked a question about potentially signing Colin Kaepernick, McCarthy pledged allegiance to the players in the building.

“I’ve got three years invested in Brett Hundley, two years invested in Joe Callahan,” McCarthy bellowed that day. “The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be, OK? We’re fortunate to have a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. We’re committed to the path that we’re on.”

At the NFL trading deadline, though, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport tweeted that the Packers tried “stealing” veteran Brian Hoyer.

On Thursday, McCarthy explained — well, sort of.

“First off, I can’t confirm it because from the time Aaron has been injured, I’ve never once been involved in a conversation about bringing in a veteran quarterback,” McCarthy said. “So, from my perspective, from the time of the Minnesota game (Oct. 15), the Monday after the Minnesota game to here today, I attempted particularly here, which really, frankly, I know you think I’m talking to you guys, I’m really talking to our football team and our fans.

“The direction that we’re going with the quarterbacks is Brett Hundley and the guys that we have here. So that was really clearly the vision from the time we had to address it there in Minnesota. But I’m not naive to the fact that player personnel people talk around the league. Was there a conversation on other free agents, particularly leading up to the deadline of trading? Yeah, that’s those guys doing their jobs. But as far as pursuing any player, I personally was not involved in any conversations, especially on a veteran quarterback.”

McCarthy clearly needed to back his two young quarterbacks last month to keep their confidence high. But it’s understandable why general manager Ted Thompson and Green Bay’s front office would be exploring other options.

Hundley has a paltry 39.7 passer rating over the last seven quarters. Hundley has just one touchdown pass and four interceptions since stepping in for Rodgers.

Callahan, the No. 2 quarterback and an undrafted free agent from Wesley College in 2016, has never thrown an NFL pass.

The Packers, one of the NFC’s favorites with Rodgers, have lost two straight games. Now, sitting at 4-3, Green Bay is danger of quickly falling out of playoff contention.

Hundley stayed in Green Bay during the Packers’ bye week and worked closely with McCarthy. And if Green Bay has any chance to defeat Detroit Monday, Hundley has to be substantially better.

“You know, obviously when a guy like (Rodgers) goes down, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Hundley said. “It’s hard to replace a guy like him. I’ve been learning from him for three years. But at the end of the day, now I’m just praying for him and hoping his recovery goes well.

“But we’ve got to get out there and we’ve got to win games. Our season isn’t over. We still have everything in front of us. We’ve got a long stretch coming up, but we’ve got to make the most of it. Our expectations are still the same.”


--Strong safety Morgan Burnett is expected to return after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. Not only is Burnett one of Green Bay’s best defensive players, he also wears the communication headset.

Without Burnett, fellow safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix wore the headset and communication was an enormous problem. Green Bay struggled to line up properly and had just 10 men on the field during a touchdown run by New Orleans’ Mark Ingram II in Week 7.

“It just gives us versatility with what he’s capable of doing on our defense,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said of Burnett’s return. “To have him back and even more so than that, just kind of his veteran presence and leadership. Just putting him out there, knowing that he knows where to fit, he knows what to do. And on top of that we’ll throw the mic back in his helmet and have him be in charge of getting everybody lined up, getting the call out there. Usually when he’s in front, very rarely do we have those ‘10 guys on the field’ or personnel issues, so huge having him back.”

--Former Packers right guard T.J. Lang will make his return to Lambeau Field Monday. Lang played eight seasons in Green Bay and became one of the Packers’ best offensive linemen in a generation.

When general manager Ted Thompson low-balled Lang in free agency in March, he signed a three-year, $28.5 million deal in Detroit that included $19 million in guaranteed money.

“I think every player, once you hit a certain age or certain year that you’re going into in the league, I think it’s kind of rare nowadays — outside of maybe the elite guys, the quarterbacks, the receivers, guys of that nature - it’s kind of rare for guys just to stay in one spot the longer you want to play,” Lang said. “It’s a lot more rare than it used to be.

“It used to be before free agency and everything, guys would play their whole career in one city, and I think that’s everybody’s goal. You want to build a legacy. At the end of the day, when you reach a certain age, you’d like to finish your career in the same spot you started it, because you understand it’s not a very common thing to do that. But when the time came, and we had to handle business, I think it just turned out the way that it was.”