Studious Tolzien moves up to back up Rodgers for Packers

June 13, 2015

In this Nov. 10, 2013, file photo, Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien watch from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Green Bay, Wis. Offseason workouts will be important for Scott Tolzien to gain reps and confidence in his new role as the No. 2 backup quarterback for the Packers.

GREEN BAY Before he breaks the huddle, Aaron Rodgers likes to think good thoughts about the play that he's about to run for the Green Bay Packers. There are plenty of positive memories from which the two-time NFL MVP can draw.

For backup Scott Tolzien, those memories will have to be generated at practice. If things are going right for Green Bay, Tolzien will never take a meaningful snap during a game.

That makes the offseason even more important for Tolzien, when practice reps are more plentiful and Rodgers can help keep a watchful eye on his protege.

"What happens to a guy like Scott, the more reps he gets, especially now and in training camp ... you start to really store up those positive memories and stack those successes on top of each of other, to where you're breaking the huddle, you have that positive memory to flash in your mind right away," Rodgers said.

In a best case scenario, Rodgers would take every snap. The 31-year-old Rodgers in his prime.

But the last two seasons have shown the importance of still having a quality backup. Matt Flynn returned in the middle of the 2013 season to bring stability to the quarterback position while Rodgers was out with a collarbone injury.

Flynn returned as the backup in 2014, but the Packers also kept Tolzien . The assumption was that Tolzien would succeed Flynn as the backup in 2015 and that's exactly what appears is going to happen after the Packers didn't re-sign Flynn this offseason.

The studious Tolzien is known for putting in extra work. Rodgers reminded reporters this week about how Tolzien spent late nights two years ago running plays with backup center Garth Gerhart.

While Tolzien hasn't been concentrating on any one thing in offseason workouts, he said he is getting a better feel for the nuances of the game.

"It's protecting the quarterback. And along with that, that's a lot on the quarterback, too. You've got to know where you're protected and where you're not and the adjustments to make," Tolzien said. "There's a lot on the quarterback's plate but I think I've learned to appreciate that because you ultimately know who's protected, who's blocked and who's not. And that's a huge advantage to have."

Being able to watch Rodgers is another one. Tolzien looked Rodgers-esque on one two-minute practice drill this week when he darted a pass over the middle to a receiver for a touchdown with time expiring.

"I thought he had, shoot, about three outstanding throws in the third down in the two-minute actually, the last two plays of the two-minute were big-time throws," coach Mike McCarthy said. "At the end, it's the preseason games. That's where you really want to see every player take a jump, especially at the quarterback position. And I have all the confidence that he'll do that."

After playing his college ball at Wisconsin, Tolzien went undrafted in 2011. He had stints with the Chargers and 49ers before signing with the Packers in September 2013.

Tolzien did play three games in 2013, with two starts while Rodgers was out. He has another chance to make a lasting impression after spending 2014 behind Rodgers and Flynn on the depth chart.

Tolzien "saw the big picture and the opportunity, and he's put himself in a great situation to make a career for himself," Rodgers said. "It's just about taking that next step and continuing what he did last year. He played well enough to be on the 53, and improved enough to where they wanted to make him the backup."



Associated Press