Mike Reilly embraced an old acquaintance, safety Derrick Martin, then asked for instructions around the cavernous bowels of Lambeau Field.
You can’t blame Reilly if his head was swimming a bit.
At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Reilly learned the Packers wanted to sign him to their practice squad. At 8 p.m., he left his wife in Pasco, Wash., and flew to Seattle. After a lengthy layover, he arrived in Minneapolis at 6 a.m. and Appleton at 8 a.m.
“I came straight here, talked to the doctors, got my equipment and then we had practice. I haven’t had a lot of time,” Reilly said with a laugh. “I couldn’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.”
The Packers tabbed Reilly to replace Brian Brohm, who moved from the Packers’ practice squad to Buffalo’s active roster. Reilly was a four-year starter at Division II Central Washington, where he broke practically all of Jon Kitna’s records while throwing for 12,448 yards and 118 touchdowns. An undrafted free agent, Reilly completed 10-of-15 passes for 117 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in three preseason games for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I saw some tape on Mike, what was that, in the preseason?” coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. “Plus, also his (Scouting) Combine workout and so forth. Very athletic quarterback and did some good things in Pittsburgh during the preseason. So we'll have an opportunity to try to get him acclimated to the way we do things here. I'm glad he's here.
Reilly worked out for the Packers a couple weeks after being released by Pittsburgh, and had worked out for a few other teams since then. Between those workouts and trying to keep his skills sharp, he put his mechanical engineering degree to work at father-in-law Mitch Crowe’s business, Absolute Engineering in Kennewick, Wash.
“I opened my firm back in ’02 and myself wrestled in college,” Crowe said in an e-mail, adding that his daughter, Jessica, and Reilly met in preschool and played Mary and Joseph in the Christmas program. “My son plays baseball at Central where Mike played. So, we are kind of a sports freak engineering firm. When it became obvious that it was going to take time for Mike to land somewhere, I decided to hire him and help the company out. Before Mike left, he was drawing HVAC ductwork on a software package called Solidworks. This is for a project that we are doing engineering on for ConAgra in Louisiana. Mike also reworked our company Web site while he was here.”
For now, mechanical engineering is on hold. Reilly’s new job involves digesting the Packers’ playbook and proving that he deserves to stick in Green Bay long enough to compete for a job in training camp next summer.
Packer Report talked to Reilly after Thursday’s practice.
Welcome to Green Bay.
Reilly: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.
You worked out here a month or so ago, right?
Reilly: It was like middle to end of September. I’m not sure the exact date, but I came in for a workout about a month-and-a-half ago.
I had heard that went really well, and obviously it did, because you’re here. Did you think you did pretty good that day?
Reilly: I felt like I had thrown pretty well. I felt like the workout went smooth and I had some pretty good timing with the wide receivers and everything like that. But I also knew the situation here. I had to find the perfect situation. I got along real well with the coaches. I met Coach (Tom) Clements at the Scouting Combine and just really, really liked what the team had to offer. I was hoping that something would work out, whether it was at the time or down the road. Fortunately, I’ve been given the opportunity and am real excited to be here.
You worked out for the Saints recently. Anyone else since being released by Pittsburgh at the end of camp?
Reilly: I worked out, after I was in Green Bay, I went to Buffalo and Seattle and then New Orleans just recently.
What have you been doing? Haven’t had to get a “real job” yet, have you?
Reilly: I’ve been working out, throwing pretty much daily and just trying to stay in shape. I’ve been working as a mechanical engineer; that’s what I got my degree in. My father-in-law owns a mechanical engineering company in Washington, so I’ve been helping him out more than anything, just a couple hours a day when I’m not working out.
Obviously, Central Washington’s a bit off the beaten path. Can you tell us what you bring to the table?
Reilly: Central Washington is small. It’s Division II. But I think people watching ESPN know that Division II is pretty formidable. You’ve got (Cincinnati’s) Bernard Scott returning touchdowns on kick returns. You’ve got Johnny Knox for Chicago. Those are guys that were in Division II and was going up against. I just feel like, coming from the situation that I am and not having been given an opportunity to play football for the last month-and-a-half, I’m hungry. I’m hungry. Practice feels like a blessing, really, rather than a burden. I’m excited to get out and work hard and show what I can do.
Your idol is Jon Kitna?
Reilly: Yeah, Jon Kitna was from Central Washington as well. I’ve had a chance to speak with him a lot over the last six months. He’s provided some good insight. He’s been in the league for (13) years, and that’s the path I’m going to try to follow as well.
How did things go today?
Reilly: They went good. I got to meet a lot of the guys. Felt like the team chemistry here is amazing. Guys were very receptive. I still haven’t met everybody. I just got in this morning at 8 o’clock. I pulled an all-nighter on a red-eye last night. My adrenaline was still going and keeping me up today. I’m going to get the playbook and study hard tonight and crash and get some sleep for tomorrow.
Must be pretty sweet to have a job again?
Reilly: It’s great. Not only just a job, but a job with a team like Green Bay. You can go to a lot of different places, but this has a pretty rich tradition. So this is pretty awesome.
Coach McCarthy has a reputation for working with quarterbacks. Was that a pretty big drawing card?
Reilly: No question. I was talking to a few guys about that this morning. It’s kind of hard at midseason. I know that being a third-string guy and just coming in, there’s not going to be a whole lot of opportunities for me to get a lot of work in. I’ll have to spend some time after practice doing things like that and do a lot of mental reps. But the offseason, I’m really looking forward to getting that coaching, working on my technique and just becoming as good as I can be. There’s a lot of great quarterbacks that have come through here and gone through that school and improved tremendously. I’m looking forward to that.
Is there any similarity in verbiage with what you’re doing here and what you had at Pittsburgh or in college?
Reilly: A little bit. A lot of the concepts are the same but the actual verbiage is different. I’m just going to have to clear my mind of the past offenses that I’ve ran. But in college, I played for four different offensive coordinators and they all changed the verbiage, so I’m used to trying to flush it out of the system and learn the new one. It’s going to take some time. There are a lot of similarities between what they’re doing here and what we ran in Pittsburgh and even what I did in college, so I think I’ll catch onto it pretty quick.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.