Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Kurt Benkert’s future with the team may depend on what Aaron Rodgers decides to do, but he has certainly been an intriguing presence on the team since his arrival in May.
Benkert signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, and after three years with the team — two of which were on the practice squad and the other of which was spent on injured reserve — he caught on with the Packers this spring after impressing in OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
Benkert’s goal, of course, is to make Green Bay’s active roster this fall, but he could also be an option for the practice squad, depending on how training camp goes. In a recent interview with Tyler Dunne of Go Long, Benkert shared a very specific story about how the Falcons handled his placement on the practice squad — spoiler alert: he wasn’t too happy — and he also shared a very helpful and meaningful text he received from former Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
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Benkert: ‘I’ve Worked My Ass Off’
After a year on the practice squad as a rookie in 2018 and an injury keeping him on IR in 2019, Benkert was ready to make the Falcons’ roster last year. It didn’t go down that way. Here’s what happened, according to Benkert:
“I’ve worked my ass off. When it comes down to it, I work really hard in football and give it everything I have and am always prepared. I think last year with Covid really opened my eyes. I had the best camp I could possibly have. I was balling. Making plays. I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell they cut me and put me on the practice squad.’ I was like, ‘I can’t be cut. There’s no way.’ And I go into the meeting with the GM and he’s like, ‘You did everything we asked you to do. You could not have played better. We’re lucky we don’t have a preseason because we can hide you and stash you on the practice squad.’ I was like, ‘S—. OK.’ That’s the reality of the business. That was a tough pill to swallow but, at the same time, it gave me so much freedom and took such a weight off my shoulders, that I can control everything I can and they still can’t keep me on the team. That’s just part of being an undrafted guy. Until you step a foot on the field in the game, and people have to see it, they’re not worried about somebody stealing you.”
When Dunne asked if the GM in question was ex-Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, Benkert answered in the affirmative:
“Yeah. They did look after me in different ways and stuff. That was a tough reality of the business for me. As soon as I got cut, before you’re put on practice squad, you have 24 hours. You’re not allowed in the building. You’re not allowed to have your playbook. You’re a free agent for a day. The first text I got within 20 minutes was Julio (Jones). It’s cool to see guys like that recognize how I played—behind the scenes—that nobody would really know. They make it a little easier to swallow to say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. When you get your chance, you’ll be fine. But they have the leverage right now.’ That was a good Welcome to the NFL moment three years in. I’ll definitely remember that one.”
Benkert then shared the contents of a text message he received after the news from Julio Jones.
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Jones to Benkert: ‘Don’t Let Them Change How You Play Your Game’
The Falcons traded Jones to the Tennessee Titans this offseason, but the future Hall of Fame wideout was still in Atlanta last year when Benkert was stashed on the practice squad.
Benkert told Dunne Jones had a strong and supportive message for him via text:
“He was like, ‘Look. They have all the leverage right now. It won’t always be like this. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let them change how you play your game. You’re doing well. It will work out when you get your opportunity.’ It’s nice to hear from guys like that, that so many people respect. I respect and look up to him.”
It’s solid advice from one of the all-time greats. We’ll know soon enough if that opportunity Jones mentioned will present itself in Green Bay.