Kansas City, Mo. Tyler Bray knows that he’s probably not going to get a whole lot of snaps in a game the rest of the year. It comes with the territory of being the third-string quarterback.
That’s why he made the most of the ones he got Thursday night.
The rookie out of Tennessee threw for 169 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Chiefs to a 30-8 victory over the Green Bay Packers in their preseason finale. And while he was mostly going against fellow third-teamers, the performance was enough to leave Kansas City buzzing.
“He has a live arm, man. He’s not scared to go make big plays,” Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “He just has the eye of a tiger. The game’s not too big for him.”
Who would have thought anybody would be dishing out such praise four months ago?
Bray was considered a second- or third-round pick by folks who make their living by predicting such things. That’s one of the reasons he left school a year early. But over three frustrating days — seven agonizing rounds — Bray was passed over by every team in the NFL.
Not one of the 32 was willing to spend a draft pick on him.
It was embarrassing. Humbling. Front-office officials privately pointed to a slew of off-the-field issues at Tennessee that called Bray’s maturity into question. He may have had a big right arm, they whispered, but did he have the mental makeup to make it as a professional?
So far, the answer has been a resounding yes.
Bray routinely stuck around after practice throughout training camp to squeeze in extra work with the Chiefs’ wide receivers. He asked so many questions of starters Alex Smith and backup Chase Daniel that they were left exhausted. He’s been trying to absorb everything that Chiefs coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson can pass along as they prepare for the season.
“Does he have room to grow? Absolutely. That’s what’s exciting about the whole thing,” Reid said Friday. “We’ll see how he does as time goes on here. He handled what we threw at him last night. He executed well and had a little knack for throwing the football.”
That much was never in question. Bray was a high-profile recruit when he committed to Tennessee — one of his guides on his visit in high school was Chiefs safety Eric Berry. He threw for more than 1,800 yards as a freshman, put up comparable numbers as a sophomore, and then threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns his junior year.
With a weak draft class at quarterback, Bray thought that he’d be picked in the first couple of rounds. He never realized how much value the NFL places on character these days.
The Chiefs knew that his raw ability was worth taking a chance on, though, so they called him almost immediately after the draft. They weren’t alone. But the Chiefs won the bidding for the rookie free agent, and Bray reported to the Chiefs this past spring with a positive attitude.
He quickly moved up the depth chart past Ricky Stanzi, who has since been cut, and is barking on the heels of Daniel, who struggled most of the preseason. And while it’ll be hard for Bray take over the No. 2 job given his experience, nothing seems impossible right now.
“I already knew how he can throw. I knew how he can compete. I knew he could make plays. I just wanted to see him showcase it out here,” Berry said. “I’ve been talking about him since he got here. I always thought he was a good pickup.”
In a sign of how much he’s matured, Bray downplayed his stellar outing against Green Bay.
He reminded a gaggle of reporters who gathered around him in the Chiefs locker room that he was going against third- and fourth-teamers, and that he hasn’t proven anything yet in the NFL.