Good thing practice is where you’re supposed to get all the mistakes out of the way, because Patriots rookie quarterback Danny Etling is learning pretty quickly that the transition from the SEC - and let me tell you, *insert heavy twang here* people from the S-E-C love to talk about how the S-E-C is the most pro-ready conference because it’s the S-E-C and the best players play in the S-E-C - isn’t just playing against some bigger and stronger guys. It’s more like you’re used to driving a Mustang and then someone tosses you the keys to a Ferrari.
And to give the kid some credit, it’s not as if he’s been terrible, just wildly inconsistent so far, which, he’s a rookie, that’ll happen. And he knows it.
Rookie QB Danny Etling is sailing a bunch of throws today. 90 for arm strength, 53 for accuracy— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) July 28, 2018
Danny Etling can't hit the broad side of a barn on a screen pass, but somehow he nails deep to intermediate throws. He hit Devin Lucien in stride over double coverage for a TD.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) July 31, 2018
(Hey, I know another AFC East quarterback that can’t hit the broad side of a barn on a screen pass!)
Through four training camp practices (11-on-11s, 7-on-7s):— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) July 30, 2018
Tom Brady: 41 of 59 (69.5%), INT
Brian Hoyer: 41 of 55 (74.5%), 2 INT
Danny Etling: 15 of 35 (42.9%), INT
Danny Etling getting some extra work in with the Patriots’ young receivers and DBs. Hit Braxton Berrios on this one. pic.twitter.com/WML7pCcU6G— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) July 26, 2018
NBC Sports Boston caught up with Danny on Wednesday night and talked to him about going from college ball to trying to hit the ground running in camp:
“Nothing really prepares you for the NFL like just going through it, and getting thrown in the deep end and just doing it,” said Etling. “There are no shortcuts.”
“Yes,” he emoted, smiling and shaking his head. “It’s the most frustrating thing of learning a new system and being in a new place is that you don’t play near to the potential that you originally have set standards for yourself. But when you’re unsure and you’re not playing very sure, not attacking things and you’re more on the defensive and trying to just learn everything, you’re not going to play as well.”
“And that’s the hardest part of it is getting through that portion of it, working as hard as you can, not losing confidence and then taking the next step. Once you’ve grasped the offense, once you understand everything, it’s like, ‘Okay, I can make a 5-yard flat throw. I can make a 10-yard out throw.’ You can do all those things.”
“The hay is not even close to being in the barn as far as work goes,” he said. “Especially for me. So, it’s just going to be a continual process of learning and working at it. There are no shortcuts. There’s just time and continuing to push through it.”
(Note to self: start saying “the hay isn’t even close to being in the barn” regularly. As someone who had to work on a farm and bale hay as a kid, I 100% endorse this as a catchphrase.)
Fortunately, even though Danny (sigh...it’s going to take some time to get used to calling two new guys “Danny”) hasn’t blown anybody’s doors off yet in camp - and to be fair, nobody’s expected him to - he’s on board with the only way to get better.
More reps and more study.
Oh, and being the first one to get here and the last one to leave, which, by my count, according to Bill Belichick approximately half the team is the first one to get here and the last one to leave, so, good job guys!
First on the field this morning: Danny Etling, who was the last to leave it yesterday.— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) July 28, 2018
As our resident film enthusiast Evan pointed out a couple weeks ago, at this point Brian Hoyer is New England’s clear-cut on-deck option at quarterback, so it’s not like Etling’s one play away from game action. I mean, technically, two, sure, possibly, but...
....you know what, let’s just not talk about that right now. Wouldn’t want to jinx anything.
Unfortunately for Danny, there’s one part of rookie life you’re never going to get away from, no matter how much of a grinder you are: