FOXBORO, Mass. — On a team with more than a handful of household names, somehow 2018 seventh-round pick Danny Etling stole the show on the first day of New England Patriots training camp.
Etling still was listed at quarterback on the Patriots’ training camp roster, but he shed his red non-contact top for a white No. 5 jersey, indicating he would not be used as a signal-caller. We’ll see how long this lasts — and if Etling can prove to be effective — but the now-former QB primarily played wide receiver and special teams Thursday.
Let’s hold the phone on comparisons to other players who successfully converted from quarterback like Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and New Orleans Saints special-teams ace Taysom Hill just yet, however. At 6-foot-3, 222 pounds, Etling has good size for a wide receiver, but it takes a special athlete to move positions. Etling ran a 4.76-second 40-yard dash, 7.09-second 3-cone drill and 4.37-second short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine last spring and jumped just 30.5 inches in the vertical leap.
Edelman, meanwhile, ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash with a 6.62-second 3-cone and 3.92-second short shuttle and 36.5-inch vertical leap before switching from quarterback to receiver. Hill ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical leap before becoming a Swiss Army knife for the Saints.
Etling did famously show off his athleticism last summer on an 86-yard touchdown run in the Patriots’ preseason finale against the New York Giants. He was cut and went unclaimed on waivers before spending his entire rookie season on the practice squad.
“Danny’s an athlete,” wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said after practice. “There’s a reason why he was with us because he can do both. You guys saw it right there. He can run. You saw the play last year. He can run. We always knew Danny could play different positions.”
The Patriots already had Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Etling at quarterback when they selected Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. It appeared Etling’s days on the Patriots’ 90-man roster would be numbered. He’s found a way to survive by being willing to adapt.
?I think I have always kind of known, especially last season, that week-to-week you are going to have different roles and responsibilities,” Etling said. “One thing is definitely for sure in football that there is constant change. You definitely want to continue to develop as many skills and talents as you can to help the team and help your role expand.?
Growing pains are to be expected out of Etling, who said Thursday he’s never played receiver “per se.”
?But I have also coached a lot I guess being a quarterback, so I understand football and it is helping me get a different perspective of the game itself and learning a lot of different things,” Etling said.
He’s getting additional aid from his roommate, Patriots wide receiver Braxton Berrios.
“He helped me a ton last year,” Berrios said. “He still does, but now it’s my turn a little bit. I’m at his disposal. He’s a hard worker, so whatever he needs, I’m there for him.”
Etling didn’t have any catches during team drills, and it would be unfair to expect him to contribute at an entirely new position this summer. But some added versatility could help Etling stick on the practice squad for another year. He stuck around after Thursday’s session to get in some throwing and catching reps with rookie wide receiver Ryan Davis.