Monday, October 3, 2022

Former Packers quarterback signs new contract with NFC Rival

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Kurt Benkert has officially found his next team.

Corresponding NFL Network’s Mike GarafoloThe San Francisco 49ers sign the former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback on their practice team after losing first-round starter Trey Lance in Week 2 to a season-ending ankle injury. Benkert will fill a familiar role as the No. 3 quarterback behind veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and newly promoted backup Brock Purdy.

Benkert spent the entire 2021 season with the Packers as the third stringer behind Aaron Rodgers and first-round backup Jordan Love, earning a spot on their practice team in the offseason against Blake Bortles and Jake Dolegala. However, he was released before the start of the 2022 training camp to allow him to find an opportunity elsewhere where he could fight for a real backup job.

Now Benkert could have exactly this opportunity. The 49ers will trust their seventh-round rookie Purdy as a backup for Garoppolo after he showed potential for them in the preseason, but they could test him against Benkert, who has been in the NFL for much longer. The 27-year-old spent three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and learned behind Matt Ryan before moving to Green Bay last year.

The 49ers are probably counting their blessings that Garoppolo was not traded this offseason given Lance’s season-ending injury, but that doesn’t exactly leave them on the steadiest of ground as far as the quarterback position goes. Garoppolo has dealt with his fair share of injuries throughout his NFL career, coming from offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out for most of the summer. That alone should motivate them to put together a quality backup plan just in case the worst happens.

For now, however, the backup plan in San Francisco is Purdy, a four-year starter in Iowa State who has shown some good things on tape in the preseason. While Purdy Lance took a backseat as the 49ers groomed him for his new role, he used his reps to complete 30 of his 49 passes for 347 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Even against backups, it was enough for head coach Kyle Shanahan to be confident he would step up as their QB2.

“If Jimmy wasn’t available [this offseason], we wanted with Brock as our No. 2,” Shanahan said Sept. 19 about why the 49ers wouldn’t try to trade in for a proven reinforcement after Lance’s injury. “We have a lot of faith in him and obviously we need to bring another man into this building. Whether it’s a third man or whether it’s on the training team, but we need a third man.

Shanahan’s vote of confidence in Purdy certainly doesn’t sound like it’s giving Benkert a chance to push for the back-up role, but there are certainly worse places for the former Packers quarterback to try and earn his stripes.

When the Packers released Benkert earlier this year, there were some fans — mostly those who weren’t convinced of Love’s potential — who were furious at the decision. They were highly critical of general manager Brian Gutekunst for leaving Benkert and felt he made a mistake in developing quality talent even as the No. 3 quarterback.

However, Benkert saw the situation differently and actually admitted that he “totally respected” Gutekunst’s decision not to go to the camp.

“I’ve seen a lot of Gute bashing on social media and I didn’t like it, but I know it really wasn’t my place to tweet about it,” Benkert said on June 18 during a live stream on his Twitch -Channel. “But I want you guys to know how he did it and how he did it, crazy respect for him and for the window he cut me in to give me an opportunity to actually go somewhere and get another job struggling to make the 53, knowing full well that I didn’t get a chance to make the 53 here. For example (I) respect the shit of it.”

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