GREEN BAY, Wis. — DeShone Kizer has already had quite the NFL career after just one year in the league.
But what a year it was starting for the winless Cleveland Browns as a rookie.
Now Kizer is in a completely different situation with the Green Bay Packers. There are no expectations to start with Aaron Rodgers healthy again. He might not even be the top backup come fall with Brett Hundley back and hoping to be the top reserve behind Rodgers for a third straight year.
Kizer expects to compete with Hundley for the backup job in training camp. For now, his focus as the offseason program wraps up this week with minicamp is on mastering the playbook, proving himself to teammates and working on skills needed to prepare for preseason practice in late July.
“I think this is one of the more unique careers that a young quarterback can have as far as … getting experience, seeing what it’s like to lose in this league, seeing what it’s like to go through a situation in which your back is kind of against the wall the whole year,” Kizer said, “and then obviously jump to the complete other side.”
Granted, the Packers were 7-9 last year and did not make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That led to a slew of offseason changes — at least for the usually stable Packers — with Brian Gutekunst taking over as general manager and coach Mike McCarthy installing new offensive and defensive coordinators.
One of Gutekunst’s first moves was a trade with the Browns that sent cornerback Damarious Randall, who was the Packers’ first round pick in 2015, to Cleveland in exchange for Kizer. The deal foreshadowed a competition for the backup job after the Packers’ passing game struggled while Rodgers was out with a broken collarbone.
But what’s considered a hugely disappointing year in Green Bay might be considered a smashing success in Cleveland, where Kizer was 0-15 as a starter last year.
Time for a fresh start in Titletown, learning from a two-time NFL MVP in Rodgers and proven coaches like McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.
“Now it’s about making sure I take those (losses) and turn them into lessons,” Kizer said after practice Wednesday. “Make sure I do whatever it takes to take the next step and prove to these guys in the locker room that they can rely on me when (my) number is called.”
McCarthy likes the progress that Kizer has made in his first offseason in Green Bay.
“You come in (learning) the volume of terminology, new terminology, new language, being the key communicator. So he’s doing a good job working through that,” McCarthy said. “We have a number of different concepts compared to his experience in the past. So I think he’s making really good progress.”
As the starter in Cleveland, Kizer had just coach Hue Jackson and his assistants as the only resources for information. At Lambeau, Kizer has Rodgers as a mentor. Hundley can also provide pointers given his experience in Green Bay.
Kizer has promise because of his mobility, and McCarthy has said he likes the way that the young quarterback gets the ball out in the pocket.
“This is just an opportunity to learn the playbook,” Kizer said about minicamp, “but then also do whatever I can to create some muscle memory, so when it does come time in preseason, training camp, I’m ready to ride.”