GREEN BAY, Wis. — Vince Young had just finished his post-practice shower when he entered the Green Bay Packers locker room and saw a throng of reporters waiting at his locker. A locker with no customized name plate. Four spots away from Aaron Rodgers’ prime location, the top of Young’s locker only read “Packers.”
Guided by a member of the team’s PR staff, Young wasn’t being treated like a just-signed player hoping to win a backup job.
“If y’all don’t mind,” Young said as he tried to find room to get dressed.
Minutes later, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterback addressed the media with the confidence of a superstar. It had been 49 weeks since Young was part of an NFL roster, but the former No. 3 overall pick seemed to feel like he still very much belonged in the league.
“This situation is pretty cool,” Young said of joining Green Bay. “We had some offers on the table from different teams, but my team (of agents), and here as well, thought it was a great opportunity to learn from Coach (Mike McCarthy). He’s done a great job with Aaron (Rodgers) and the rest of the guys, as well.
“I thought this could be another step to my game to make me even better. I thought it was a great opportunity to be there. That’s why I took the chance.”
Young didn’t specify which other NFL teams had also presented him with contract offers.
After being released by the Buffalo Bills in late August 2012, Young spent the entire season as a free agent, not watching much football on television. When training camps opened this year and he was still unsigned, Young wasn’t worried.
“I really feel like that year off really helped me out a lot,” Young said. “It opened my eyes and a lot of things like that. But, at the same time, my record speaks for itself and I’m a team player.”
The record that Young mentioned is his 31 wins and 19 losses as a starting quarterback in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson would like everyone to believe that Green Bay “just kind of now got around to adding a fourth (quarterback).” Young, too, was under the impression that this one-year contract had been in the making for a while.
“We knew for a long time that my agent and the organization were kind of going back and forth and talking about it,” Young said. “When I heard Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy had some interest in me, I was very happy about it.”
If this deal was being discussed for several weeks, it wasn’t Young’s idea to wait until the 12th day of the Packers’ training camp — and four days before their first preseason game — to get it finalized.
“My whole thing was staying ready, staying active and knowing that they had some interest in me, I wanted to make sure I was in shape and throwing and things like that, so when my number was called, I definitely wanted to be ready,” Young said.
Young succeeded in being ready when the call came in. He flew to Green Bay on Sunday night, tried out for the team Monday afternoon and had the paperwork completed a few hours later.
“Really, the reasoning for giving a quarterback an opportunity at this particular time in training camp is we feel that we needed to add more competition to the quarterback room,” McCarthy said. “Vince came in, and I thought he did a nice job in the workout.”
The competition at quarterback that the Packers are looking for obviously has nothing to do with Rodgers as their starter. Signing the richest contract in NFL history with recent résumé items that include a Super Bowl ring and a regular-season Most Valuable Player award have made Rodgers’ job pretty safe.
Young’s role in Green Bay is to challenge the backups, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman.
Harrell has been with the Packers since 2010 and was added to the active roster late in the 2011 season. As the team’s No. 2 quarterback last season, Harrell wasn’t on the field much, but his one meaningful snap resulted in a goal-line fumble.
Coleman, a seventh-round pick in 2012, has had plenty of strong, accurate throws so far in training camp. However, he’s also been inconsistent. In Green Bay’s intrasquad scrimmage Saturday night, Coleman threw two interceptions, one of which was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
“I think Graham’s done a good job,” Thompson said. “He fits in very well in the locker room, he carries himself well. He always has. We’ll see. I thought he played pretty good the other night.”
McCarthy was down on the prospect of Coleman elevating from last year’s practice squad to the top backup spot this season.
“B.J. did not take the step that I was hoping for, but he’s a young player,” McCarthy said. “I’m not giving up on B.J. Coleman because I think he definitely has a future; a bright future.”
Though Young’s career had stalled, he never thought his chances in the NFL were up. And the Packers wanted to make sure they got him on board before another team believed what Thompson and McCarthy did.
“As an athlete, you never try to think like that (that your career is over) because you always want to keep your confidence up,” Young said. “My whole thing is I have to do what I have to do as a person, take it one day at a time, do what I need to do to get in front of the cameras and let everybody know I’ve been working … letting people know I’m still fighting and I haven’t quit.
“Once you get to the point that you quit, that’s when you have to say, ‘I probably need to put the game down.’ But overall, I got to stay active, stay working and stay visible with my guys at (the University of Texas) and things like that. I really felt like Green Bay saw that, saw that I was still active and I didn’t give up, and that’s a pretty good deal.”
While Young said it’s “no challenge,” the 30-year-old certainly has one on his hands in trying to learn Green Bay’s offense in a shortened amount of time.
“We’re going to get him ready as soon as possible,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s a real challenge for any quarterback to come in to a new system at this point in training camp. 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.”
Young won’t be expected to recapture the magic that he had in college. He’s not being asked to push Rodgers. The Packers are just hoping they now have a proven veteran quarterback who has enough left in his arm and legs to give Green Bay better depth at the most important position.