KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -Damon Huard played behind Dan Marino, was sent to the bench by Tom Brady and relegated to second team by Trent Green.
From Miami to New England to Kansas City, everywhere he went in a languishing, vagabond career, some great quarterback got there first. From 2001 through 2005, he threw exactly one pass in a regular-season game.
Some people might have complained. Huard never did, not even in 2004 when Kansas City made him No. 3, plunging him even deeper into oblivion.
Finally with a chance to showcase his skills when Green got hurt last year, Huard was 5-3 in eight starts and played exceptionally well. Then in the offseason, while Green complained that competition at quarterback was going to be weighted in favor of young Brodie Croyle, Huard kept his mouth shut. He decided that coaches were telling the truth when they promised that everyone would be given a fair chance, and signed a new contract.
Apparently he was right, and Green, who got his demand and went to Miami, was wrong.
For the first time in 11 years, the career backup will be backed up. Huard will be under center on Sept. 9 when the Chiefs open at Houston and Croyle will occupy those sidelines that Huard trod for a long, frustrating decade.
``I think I've always believed - hoped - that someday I would get this opportunity,'' Huard said. ``Certainly, you've seen a lot of quarterbacks develop later on in their career - Brad Johnson, Steve Young, Rich Gannon. There have been a number of guys who got their opportunity a little later in their career and made the most of it. I kept plugging along all those years.''
Friends and former teammates all over the country are happy for a genuinely nice guy.
``The longer you play this game, the more friends and connections you have with people around the league. Everybody's been pretty excited for me,'' Huard said Monday.
Has he heard from Marino and Brady?
``Yeah, some of those guys,'' he said with a grin. ``I'm not going to elaborate. A lot of my former teammates have sent texts and e-mails and wished me well.''
Croyle, a second-year pro the Chiefs are hoping will be their quarterback of the future, did not play well in the first three preseason games. But neither did Huard, who has been nursing a calf injury and did not play at all against New Orleans last week. He probably won't get on the field against St. Louis on Thursday night in the final tuneup game.
But Huard isn't about to say he won the job by default. Throwing 11 touchdowns passes and only one interception last year while saving the season from becoming a disaster probably had more to do with the decision than anything else.
``We've been battling since last season ended,'' he said. ``I think the competition's been fair. We've both had the exact same number of (practice plays), other than (in) games. By no means was it by default.''
He never doubted his day would come.
``No, by no means,'' he said. ``I don``t think you ever want to get caught in a rut - `Hey, I'm just a backup.'
``I don't think you'd last as long as I have in this league if you had that attitude. You want to be the guy and you want to play. Everybody does who plays this position. If you don't have that mind-set, you won't be ready when your number's called. The quarterback position gets hurt. You've got to be ready at a moment's notice to come out of the bullpen and do the job.''

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