Maybe there is a little meant-to-be to Vince Young winding up with the Green Bay Packers.
After all, general manager Ted Thompson certainly liked him coming out of college – he even likened Young to Michael Jordan at one point – and two weeks into camp, the Packers’ backup quarterback haven’t exactly set the world on fire after the Packers expressed an interest in Young long before camp began.
And then there was what Packers director of pro personnel Eliot Wolf stumbled upon while watching TV on Sunday night: A replay of the 2006 Rose Bowl, in which Young led the Texas Longhorns to the national championship. Wolf in turn sent a text to senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith, who clicked over, too.
“They saw it as a sign,” Thompson said Tuesday, after Young completed his first practice in a Packers uniform. “From ... somewhere ...”
A better sign will be if Young, out of football last year after being cut by the Buffalo Bills at the end of training camp, can pick up the Packers offense quickly enough to make a serious run at the backup job behind starter Aaron Rodgers. After five up-and-down years as the Tennessee Titans’ starter and one year as a backup to Michael Vick with the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s hard to say just what kind of a player the Packers are getting in the 30-year-old Young.
“That's the mystery of it, sort of the intrigue,” Thompson said.
Young says the Packers are getting a more mature person, someone who has experienced both success and failure on the field (31-19 career record as a starter, two Pro Bowl selections, a 74.4 career passer rating) and has grown up off the field while getting married and trying to navigate through reported financial problems. If the Packers reclamation project nets them a more reliable backup than incumbent No. 2 quarterback Graham Harrell or third-stringer B.J. Coleman, signing Young to a one-year deal will prove well worth the risk.
“Back in the day, I was a young Vince. Now, I’m more mature and definitely learned from things that happened in the past,” Young told a throng of reporters at his new locker Tuesday afternoon. “I’m married now, a grown man, 30 years old.
“I’ve definitely been through the highs and the lows and different things like that. It’s the way you come out of it to stay strong. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.”
Young doesn’t have much time to learn a foreign playbook and make an impression, but he did take a handful of snaps in the 11-on-11 periods in practice Tuesday. Nonetheless, after an up-and-down career to this point, the 30-year-old Young said he isn’t fazed by the odds being against him.
“(It’s) no challenge. I’ve been through pretty much everything you can think of,” Young said. “I’m just happy, enjoying this and just happy to be here and being here with some special, special guys.
“My whole thing is to continue to keep working and get myself better and just staying ready – you never know.”
The Packers’ decision to sign Young came after Harrell was solid but unspectacular during the first 10 days of training camp and Coleman, a seventh-round pick in 2012 who spent last year on the practice squad, did little to impress. He threw a pair of interceptions in practice on Thursday and did so again in Saturday’s annual Family Night Scrimmage. One interception came in the end zone; another was returned 66 yards for a touchdown by little-known cornerback James Nixon.
“We’re adding more competition to the room,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who conducted Young’s workout for the Packers on Monday. “I thought (Saturday night) was one of the better scrimmage-type environments that Graham has performed in. B.J. did not take the step that I was hoping for, but he’s a young player. I’m not giving up on B.J. Coleman because I think he has, definitely a future, a bright future. (So) that is a room that there will be more competition. And Vince Young was available.”
McCarthy said he wasn’t sure whether Young would know enough of the playbook to see action in the team’s preseason opener Friday night against Arizona, although the coach said he hoped Young could play. McCarthy was also unsure of how he’d divide practice snaps, since Harrell and Coleman had been splitting snaps evenly.
“It’s going to be a challenge for anybody, and we’ll see how it goes, but we’ll get him ready as soon as we can,” McCarthy said.
Young, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds on the Packers’ official roster, appeared to be in good shape, even though he acknowledged he was “rusty a little bit.” McCarthy made it clear that Young wasn’t brought in merely to run read-option plays on the scout team against the No. 1 defense, and that the coaches had already started tweaking his fundamentals.
“Vince Young is a very talented player. You look at his history, it speaks volumes about his ability to play. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable with him,” McCarthy said. “We’ll have to teach him the language and get him up to speed.”
Thompson, meanwhile, said the Packers did consider Young’s history but that they “have no problems or concerns at all in that regard. … This was an opportunity to take a look at him, and he was anxious to give it a try. So the two things kind of came together.
Young’s comeback attempt began with him participating in Texas’ pre-draft pro day, and while he said he had other teams show interest in him, Green Bay was the right place for him to resume his NFL career.
“I’m still fighting and I haven’t quit,” Young said. “I really feel like that year off really helped me out a lot. It opened my eyes and a lot of things like that. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to play here.
“Right now I’m just taking it day by day, trying to get a grasp of the offense, ask questions, kind of pick Aaron’s and the rest of the guys’ heads so I can try to catch up to speed with the guys.”
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.