Packers: Welcome back, Flynn
Matt Flynn’s re-welcoming committee consisted of two semi-nude, affectionate fat guys.
Oh, there were plenty of other former – and now, current again – teammates who were happy to see him back at Lambeau Field. But none as, uh, demonstrative as offensive linemen T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton.
“When I first walked in, T.J. and Sitton were in the hot tub, and they tried to throw me in,” the once and now again Green Bay Packers backup quarterback said Wednesday. “They were both almost naked and giving me hugs soaking wet (when) I was in my clothes.”
For Flynn, returning to Green Bay was never part of the plan when he signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks as an unrestricted free agent in March 2012, after four years of backing up starter Aaron Rodgers. But after losing out to then-rookie Russell Wilson in Seattle, then being traded to – and later cut by – the Oakland Raiders, Flynn’s 20-month odyssey has brought him back to where it all started, as a 2008 seventh-round pick.
“(I) definitely never expected to be back here in this locker room,” Flynn said after taking part in his first practice Wednesday afternoon, following a Monday workout that earned him a contract. “I feel very fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity, but looking back at the last year and a half, last two seasons, it definitely didn’t go the way I planned on it, for whatever reason that was.
“But I have no regrets about it. I feel like I worked my tail off everywhere I went, controlled what I could control and things just didn’t work out. For whatever reason it was, things didn’t work out the way I planned or saw in my head. But I feel like I’m still the same player I was when I left here. I’m still a confident guy, a confident player. And whatever I can do to help this team out, (I will do), and hopefully bring some experience for this team.”
For now, Flynn’s job is simple: Back up starter Scott Tolzien, who earned the starting nod this Sunday against the New York Giants with a solid performance in relief of an injured Seneca Wallace in the Packers’ loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Wallace, of course, was starting in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a broken left collarbone against Chicago on Nov. 4 – the same day Flynn was serendipitously released by the Buffalo Bills after a three-week stay in upstate New York. A timeline for Rodgers’ return has not been established, although the 2011 NFL MVP is hoping to be back for the team’s Nov. 28 Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit, if not sooner.
In the meantime, the Packers are just hoping to go a week without losing a quarterback in the first quarter. Against the Bears, Rodgers was planted into the turf by defensive end Shea McClellin at the end of the team’s opening possession; against the Eagles, Wallace was 5-for-5 on the opening drive but began complaining about a groin injury while on the bench and ended up sitting out the rest of the game. The Packers placed Wallace on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday to make room on the roster for Flynn.
“It’s good to see him back. Hopefully – no offense to Matt – we won’t need him. At our rate, we might, but hopefully he can stay there (on the sideline),” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. “But it’s great to have a friend back, someone who came in (with me) as a draft class. It’s good to see him again.”
While signing Flynn became imperative after Wallace went down, his road back to Green Bay actually began last week, when the team contacted him about coming in for a workout. The call came just after Rodgers’ injury, but before Wallace’s, and the Packers’ intention was thought to be simply a check-in, to see how Flynn’s arm looked and to figure out where to put him on their emergency board. For instance, the Packers had quarterbacks James Vandenberg, Matt Brown and John Skelton in for workouts Wednesday – not that, you know, any more quarterbacks will be going down, according to coach Mike McCarthy.
“We're not going to need him, OK?” McCarthy said, not sounding like he was kidding. “I've had enough of this bad karma about quarterbacks getting injured. Scott's going to play the whole game.”
If he doesn’t, Flynn should be able to step in and run the offense he spent four years learning. Even though this will be Flynn’s fourth playbook in less than two years, McCarthy said he appeared to still have a good grasp of the passing concepts. The running game, meanwhile, has been overhauled since his departure and will require more time.
“It’s definitely challenging. I learned, since I left here, three different playbooks, three different terminologies, three different philosophies on how to attack defense, how to do footwork, this way or that way,” Flynn said. “But I’ve been ingrained in this offense for so long, knew it inside and out. I was fluent in the language and fluent in what we were trying to do, (so) it has come back pretty quickly. I see myself having it pretty close to 100 percent very soon.”
The greater issue, though, had been whether Flynn’s elbow was 100 percent. Given the success he’d had in Green Bay – completing 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns (100.2 rating) in a loss at New England that preceded the team’s 2010 Super Bowl XLV title run, or completing 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards and six TDs (136.4 rating) against Detroit in the 2011 regular-season finale – it was hard for many in the Packers organization to understand why he didn’t find success after departing.
One theory: An injury to his right (throwing) elbow that dated back to 2012 training camp with the Seahawks. But Flynn insisted Wednesday that the elbow was only an issue during that camp, even though the Packers acknowledged that the primary reason for the workout was to gauge his arm.
“I thought he threw the ball well (in the workout). I thought he threw it as I remember him,” McCarthy said. “I'll be honest with you, I'm not qualified to answer (what happened in Seattle or Oakland). I didn't go back and watch all his video in Seattle. I didn't watch his video in Oakland. I think when you have as much history with a player as we do here, it's more about the conversation and the physical workout. And that's really what it was. It was more of a medical hurdle that we had to make sure – as you do with any player that you bring in to put on your 53 – that he's ready to go. And that's how we felt after going through all that.”
Asked if he thought Flynn's arm is 100 percent, McCarthy replied: “Based on the medical examination, they're fine with the testing and everything that's been run. Yes, he was cleared medically.”
And now that he’s back, Flynn plans to enjoy himself. While he wasn’t thinking too far into the future – although he signed a one-year deal, the Packers may very well want him and Tolzien as Rodgers’ backups next year – Flynn admitted that being back in Green Bay felt like home.
“You know, first time I walked in here, it seemed like it’s been about 10 years,” he said. “But after talking to everybody and being here for two days, it kind of feels like I never left. A lot of different faces in here, but it’s a lot of familiar ones, too.
“I was the butt of a lot of jokes today and when I came here on Monday. It’s been good. It’s the same old guys. It’s good to see that not much changes with how the people act around here, people still having fun and doing their jobs.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.