From his seat on the bench Thursday, Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky should take solace: There’s value in waiting.
So says Aaron Rodgers, perhaps the greatest example in NFL history of bringing a quarterback along slowly.
“I think the players are more ready to play now than guys were when I was coming out,” the Packers quarterback and two-time NFL MVP said Tuesday, two days before his Packers host the Bears. “But for me, it was the best thing that happened to me, being able to sit for three years and learn behind a Hall of Famer, learn the game, get myself in good shape and get ready to play in Year 4.
“But whatever situation you’re in kind of dictates your timeline. Obviously, at some point, [Trubisky] is going to be the guy and get an opportunity.”
Rodgers, the No. 24 pick of the 2005 draft, didn’t start until his fourth season after sitting behind another future Hall of Famer, Brett Favre. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, doesn’t have the same competition — Mike Glennon has struggled — but the mental hurdle is the same.
“Obviously, getting picked in the first round, the physical aspects were there,” Rodgers said. “They obviously are with Mitch. Had a good preseason. Made a lot of plays, ran around, did some good things, from what I saw.
“But mentally, it takes awhile to learn the offense and, more importantly, start to learn defenses and put together fronts with pressures and coverages and start to see some different things on film. And obviously, the game is a little different, preseason to regular season.”
Because Rodgers threw only 59 passes in his first three years, he treated practice-squad matchups against starting cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris as his measuring stick.
“You have some time, playing behind a Hall of Famer, knowing it was going to be awhile before I got to play,” he said. “You’re taking some chances on the [scout] team — knowing how to fit balls in spots or use your eyes for some major eye-control stuff and some look-off plays. Just working on things every single day.”
Not until Year 2, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, can a quarterback detail the “why” of the playbook — usually by explaining the history of the team’s offensive system.
“They’ll be more detailed with what you’re asking them to do,” he said. “The commitment and understanding will be higher.”
McCarthy said preseason games are crucial in evaluating backup quarterbacks, but regular-season spot duty matters more. Rodgers gained confidence when he was thrust into a regular-season game in Dallas in 2007 and completed 18 of 26 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. His playing time was otherwise scarce.
“I was very thankful for the opportunity — now, as I look back — to grow, but I was never bitter in the moment,” Rodgers said. “I was always excited about every day of practice and excited about going through my preparation during the week to try to give maybe one little nugget to Brett during the week that might help him play better on Sunday.”
That will be Trubisky’s role Thursday night.
“There’s a lot of growth that can happen sitting on the bench,” Rodgers said. “You can really gain in confidence every single day of practice. You can kind of come along at your own speed. You’re obviously not dealing with the pressure every week of having to perform, which is a real thing. You come along and learn the league, learn how to be a professional and learn how to take care of your body, and know at some point you’re going to get an opportunity, like [Mitch] obviously is. And when he does get the opportunity, be ready to make of the most of it.”
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