RIVER FALLS, Wis. (AP) - If Damon Huard's luck holds true, the NFL's next great quarterback is sure to be Brodie Croyle.
Standing in the shadow of giants seems to be the hand that fate has dealt this compliant, philosophical and - so far, at least - lifelong second-stringer.
"You just go play the game and go compete, work hard and let the chips fall where they may," he said.
Huard started his professional journey in Miami, where Dan Marino was wrapping up his record-setting Hall of Fame career and not about to give up his job to any rookie.
Next he was off to Kansas City and back to the bench while Trent Green ran one of the league's most productive offenses for Dick Vermeil.
But now Green is gone, Marino is retired and Brady is pursuing more championships in New England. Huard, for the first time since he set passing records at the University of Washington, is unlimbering his passing arm in training camp knowing that he has a real chance to start.
Coaches say he's competing on an equal footing with Croyle, a strong-armed but inexperienced second-year pro who spent his rookie season last year as No. 3.
Nevertheless, Huard knows the odds may be stacked against him. He's in his mid-30s and competing against a 20-something talent the organization plans on being its franchise quarterback of the future.
"I'm 34 and Brodie's 24. That's the reality of it. We'll go out and compete every day and both of us probably are going to have to play this season at some point anyway," Huard said.
What Huard did last year certainly inspires confidence. When a savage tackle in the season opener put Green on the shelf, Huard hadn't played in a game in five years. But proved to be steady, dependable, productive and smart, winning five of eight starts and amassing an 11-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But the minute Green got well, he was back on the bench. It may have been a coaching mistake. Green wound up with nine interceptions and seven touchdowns and a 74.1 quarterback rating compared with Huard's 98.0.
But nothing he says or does betrays even a trace of bitterness.
"I go out there every day, every year and do my best," Huard said.
"I've no second thoughts. I can go back to my whole career and complain about that if I was going to. Back to Miami, or why did Bill Belichick pick Tom Brady over me that year? It's just not me. I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to look forward to the next day, the next challenge and go compete and make this team better.
"It's tough because you want to play. But I've been around some great people, played for three Super Bowl winning coaches in Jimmy Johnson, Bill Belichick and Dick Vermeil, played around some Hall of Fame quarterbacks. And I've got two Super Bowl rings. Granted, I didn't take a snap in those games. But I've got them. There are guys who have played their whole careers and never got one.
"I've been very blessed."
If Croyle wins the job, there'll be no sulking by No. 2.
"I won't have trouble if I knew I did my very best and I did every thing I could as far as preparation and hard work and I laid it all on the line and for some reason it didn't work out," Huard said.
"What am I going to do? Quit? You just never know how this game unfolds. But you always prepare to play, and when the opportunity comes, you step in there and make the most of it."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)