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Journeymen Benkert, Kelly Will be Rookie Camp Quarterbacks

Chad Kelly was drafted in 2017 and Kurt Benkert entered the NFL in 2018. Combined, they've thrown one regular-season pass.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Without a rookie quarterback on the roster and with Jordan Love ineligible to participate, the Green Bay Packers will have Kurt Benkert and Chad Kelly running the offense for this weekend’s rookie camp.

If one impresses, he could earn a spot on a roster that includes only Aaron Rodgers and Love under contract. Combined, they’ve been in the NFL for seven seasons but played only one regular-season snap.

“I’m certain that we will add another in that room,” coach Matt LaFleur said after the draft. “You never want to go to camp or offseason program with less three quarterbacks. We’ll be busy in that department. Shoot, sometimes you carry four. That’s certainly something that I think Brian (Gutekunst) and I will be in communication about in terms of who we’re going to add to that room.”

Benkert went undrafted in 2018 and has spent the past three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons – on the practice squad in 2018 and 2020 and on injured reserve in 2019. The Falcons released him on Feb. 18. He has not played in a regular-season game.

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Kelly was “Mr. Irrelevant” as the last pick of the 2017 draft by the Denver Broncos. He missed his rookie year with a wrist injury, played one snap in 2018, split his 2019 season between the practice squad and active roster but didn’t see any action, and was out of the league for most of 2020.

Opening his career at East Carolina, Benkert missed the 2015 season with a knee injury. He earned his degree, transferred to Virginia and started 24 games in 2016 and 2017. As a senior, he completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 3,207 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He set single-season school records in passing yards (3,207), completions (298), attempts (509), 200-plus-yard passing games (nine) and total offense (3,144). His 455 passing yards against UConn as a senior also set a school record. Along with all of that, he was named a second-team academic all-American.

Benkert is named after an uncle — his dad’s brother — who was slain before he was born. One day, 2-year-old Kurt and his father, Bruce, went hunting. “We were stopped and sitting there and my son looked up at me. His exact words were, ‘When I was a big boy, me and you used to hunt here.’” Bruce paused. “I don’t believe in reincarnation, but that shook me to my core. He was 2 years old! My brother’s speaking through him, basically. I don’t know how you want to interpret it, but that was his exact words. It just chilled me to the bone.”

Kelly’s off-the-field story also is colorful but not in a good way. He was dismissed from Clemson for “conduct detrimental to the team” in April 2014. Eight months later, he was arrested after being accused of punching a bouncer at a bar, threatened to open fire with an AK-47 and got into an altercation with police upon his arrest.

Kelly played one year of junior-college ball and transferred to Ole Miss. He threw for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2015 and 2,758 yards and 19 touchdowns before suffering a torn ACL in 2016.

With Denver in 2018, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal trespassing, which led to him being suspended for the first two games of the 2019 season in Indianapolis.

He is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

“I taught him how to hold a football, the three-step, the five-step, high release all those things that dads or uncles do,” Jim Kelly told SI.com. Chad was the star of Jim’s football camp, and his legend grew in Western New York. He is the only winner of four national Punt, Pass and Kick competitions. “There was pressure for me for as long as I can remember,” Chad says. “Once in an interview I said it’s hard to be Jim Kelly’s nephew and people killed me for that. It became a huge thing. I learned not to say that anymore.”