GREEN BAY, WIS., AUG. 21 -- Only opportunity, says Green Bay Packers quarterback Anthony Dilweg, separates the understudy from the star.
Thanks to Don Majkowski's 31-day holdout, Dilweg, a Duke graduate and former All-Met at Whitman High School, now has the opportunity. And the stardom? Coming soon, if his 12-for-17, 161-yard performance Saturday in a 27-13 preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints is any indication.
"I don't know how he could have played any better," said Packers Coach Lindy Infante.
Said Jack Faulkner, advance scout for the Los Angeles Rams: "This guy is as good as Majkowski. He's just got to play a little more."
That may be a bit of an exaggeration for a second-year player who threw exactly one pass last season. Meantime, Majkowski, a Virginia graduate, was leading Green Bay to a surprising 10-6 finish, and made the Pro Bowl.
"Don had a great year, so I didn't get to play," Dilweg said. "I thought I could do it last year. . . . I know I can play too and I like the fact that all through my career, when I've played, I've done well. I've always just had to wait for the chance."
At Duke, Dilweg redshirted as a freshman, then sat for three seasons behind Steve Slayden, who played briefly with the Cleveland Browns.
At Whitman, Dilweg took a fifth year of classes to play his senior season. He spent his fourth year on the sideline after knee surgery.
"It's my career pattern, I guess," he said. "For some reason, I always have to sit awhile before I get to play. For lack of a better word, I think you could say that I sit well, because I've been in that situation so many times. I know how frustrating it can be, but at the same time, I know you can channel that frustration into something positive.
"By no means do I enjoy it. I'd rather be playing. Guys will say: 'How do you take it so well? Would you rather not be playing?' No, I want to play. But I'm not going to sit in a corner and pout about it."
Not surprisingly, Dilweg prefers to dwell on another playing pattern: Stirring success in those rare moments on the field. "I've only had, really, those two full seasons of playing in my entire life," he said. "As for potential, the way I feel is, the sky's the limit. I just need time on the field."
Dilweg has been the No. 1 quarterback in training camp. His performance in the Aug. 11 opener vs. Cleveland -- 12 for 26 for 112 yards and an interception -- certainly wasn't magic, or Majik, for that matter. But the 1989 third-round pick rebounded with a poised first half against the Saints.
Infante "has always had confidence in him," said Tom Braatz, the Packers' operations chief. "I don't think there have been any questions. . . . He's always been satisfied with Dilweg. He's got a presence about him."
Said Infante: "If you stuck him in there on fourth and 10 and he had to get a completion and he wasn't even warm, it wouldn't affect him mentally. Whether he could do it physically is another question."
While agreeing his success is predicated on knowledge and execution of Infante's multiple offense, the 6-foot-3 1/2, 198-pounder blanches at suggestions that he might lack the physical tools for the NFL. "I feel I have all the attributes. My arm is good, I feel I can get myself out of trouble when I have to, be quick on my feet," Dilweg said.
"Besides, the key is not how big and strong you are, how far you can throw the ball. It's what you do with your mind, getting people open with a fake, looking people off. What makes you is the intangibles that most people don't look at, or don't know about. And that's where I'm working to excel."
While he's working, he's also wondering. Will Majkowski's holdout give him the chance to start Sept. 9 against the Rams? Infante indicated on Monday that he might commit to that by this weekend.
And if Majkowski signs?
"If he comes back this week, no big deal," Dilweg said. "Whatever they want to do with Don, they can do. I'm just going to push him hard, so I'll get my chance someday. I just hope I don't have to sit as long."