NAPA -- Matt Flynn knows about doubters. When he makes his debut as the Raiders' starting quarterback Friday night, the skeptics will be out in force, both in the press box and the stands.
But before he ever got a chance to feel his own NFL scrutiny, Flynn got to witness a teammate deal with it on a much larger scale in Green Bay. When the rookie seventh-round pick arrived in 2008, Brett Favre was waffling on his decision to retire. That left prospective starter Aaron Rodgers in the middle of a maelstrom.
Favre was a three-time MVP and a franchise icon, and the team's decision to move ahead with Rodgers was unpopular. General manager Ted Thompson had drafted two quarterbacks, Brian Brohm out of Louisville in the second round, and Flynn out LSU in the seventh, to fight for the backup job.
"What Aaron went through was a circus," Flynn recalled. "There were all the questions from the media, people heckling him in the crowd. I don't think anybody else could have handled it any better than he did.
"I spent eight or nine hours a day with him, and you'd never have known what he was going through. There was never any sign of frustration."
Rodgers, who went on to win Super Bowl XLV and win a Most Valuable Player award, is a central figure to Flynn's story. When Flynn gracefully handled losing the starting job to rookie Russell Wilson last season in Seattle, where Flynn had signed as a free agent, it was a maturity learned from watching his close friend and mentor.
"He's handled himself well in some tough situations," Rodgers said in a phone interview from Green Bay. "He was a backup who knew he could play, got better, improved his skill set, learned how to prepare and did really well when he got the opportunity to play in a couple of games.
"It was a tough situation in Seattle, but he's got an opportunity in Oakland to do something great, and I'm really proud of him."
It hasn't taken Flynn long to establish himself as the clear No. 1 in training camp. The current backup, Terrelle Pryor, is still a work in progress. Meanwhile, fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson has struggled mightily.
But the doubters aren't going anywhere soon.
The Raiders' run of 10 consecutive non-winning seasons and Flynn's two-game body of work as an NFL starter led ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski to list Flynn 32nd among NFL quarterbacks.
In his first start, Flynn completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in a 31-27 Packers loss to New England in 2010. Then, in the 2011 regular-season finale, he set franchise records by hitting 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in a 45-41 win over Detroit.
Still, Jaworski said film study reveals limitations in arm strength, and noted, "When I think of Flynn, I'm reminded of Bill Walsh and his strong belief that a good coach manipulates the play of his quarterback and his pass concepts and his play calling. That will have to be the case with Flynn in Oakland."
Toward that end, offensive coordinator Greg Olson has Flynn in an offense featuring a power running game and plenty of safe, ball-control throws.
While lacking the big arm of predecessor Carson Palmer, Flynn has shown ability to escape pressure and throw to a secondary receiver or scramble for first-down yardage.
Flynn's job will be to command the huddle, make the correct reads and spread the ball around. He began working with some of his receivers at Laney College shortly after being traded.
"He's got incredible physical and mental toughness," Rodgers said. "He really understands the game and how to use his ability to get the ball to his teammates in good positions. He's a gamer-type, and you've seen that when he's gotten a chance to play."
Flynn has surpassed expectations before. He didn't start at LSU until his senior year, after JaMarcus Russell declared for the draft as a junior. Flynn led the Tigers to the BCS national championship over Ohio State.
In Green Bay, Flynn beat out Brohm to be the backup, with coach Mike McCarthy lauding his instinct, disposition and leadership skills.
Pryor, who is getting a look in some specialty packages to take advantage of his elusiveness, has supporters among the Raiders fan base.
Flynn promises only to be himself, applying what he learned from Rodgers to his own situation. And he won't spend time worrying about the doubters.
"I'm not going to try and be somebody I'm not, and when I get an opportunity, I'll make the most of it," Flynn said.
Watson, the second-round draft pick out of Florida State, made it through about 30 minutes before walking off with trainer Rod Martin after being reinjured in a position drill. He said it was a calf injury.
Sims started practice wearing a wrap around his right thigh just above his knee. He felt good enough to remove it at one point, then shortly afterward was led off the field with a trainer.
Coach Dennis Allen wouldn't rule out Watson or Sims for Friday night's game against Dallas, although it appears unlikely either would play.