Brothers Ready To Battle

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Growing up in Charlotte, N.C., brothers Orrin and Jeremy Thompson used to compete for the kinds of things that, well, all brothers do.

Who gets the last drumstick at dinner, who gets to pick the channel and TV program after dinner. That sort of stuff.

Little did they know their athletic careers would eventually put them in a position where they'd be competing with one another on the Green Bay Packers' practice field - for a job.

But that's the impending scenario set to unfold when OTAs begin later this month, or at the very least during training camp. With older brother Orrin an offensive tackle and rookie fourth-round draft pick Jeremy at defensive end, it's virtually inevitable that they will be lining up across from one another in one-on-one pass-rush drills and during team (11-on-11) segments of practice.

It's a moment the Thompson brothers are looking forward to, but one they admit will be a little strange, a little heated, and everything in between.

"We're making little jokes that if we did have to go one-on-one, it's going to be a battle," Orrin said. "He's going to win some, I'm going to win some. It's going to be nasty."

Those jokes began draft weekend when Orrin, now in his third season with the Packers as a backup offensive tackle, was back home in Charlotte with the family for Jeremy's draft party.

It was almost a surreal moment when Jeremy got the call from the Packers that they were trading up 11 spots in the fourth round to grab him. The brothers haven't been on the same team since Orrin was a senior and Jeremy was a freshman on the football and basketball squads at Charlotte Christian School back in 2000, and suddenly they've become teammates in the NFL.

"For me it's a great honor to be here," Jeremy said. "But I'm really blessed to have somebody I know, and it will be my brother, already here on the team."

Parents Oliver and Myrna already are making plans to come visit the boys during training camp, and getting to see them both in the same city will be exciting as well as convenient.

Their boys have taken rather different paths to the pros, though both come from Atlantic Coast Conference schools - Orrin from Duke, Jeremy from Wake Forest.

Orrin was a defensive tackle all through college and wasn't drafted, signing as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 2005. He converted to offensive tackle, spent one year on Miami's practice squad, one season in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder, and another training camp with the Dolphins before he was released prior to the start of the 2006 regular season.

He was signed to the Packers' practice squad in November of 2006 and has been in Green Bay since. He was on the Packers' active roster for two separate stints last year but did not appear in a game, and he'll be competing with several candidates to land backup spots behind veteran tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton this year.

Meanwhile Jeremy is not undergoing a position change and already has a place in Green Bay history without ever taking a snap, as the only player General Manager Ted Thompson has ever traded up to select in nine years running drafts (five with Seattle, four in Green Bay).

At 264 pounds, he'll be asked to bulk up a bit to play his position as a pro, but with the likes of reserve defensive ends Michael Montgomery and Jason Hunter making their mark on special teams in the early stages of their careers, Thompson may have the body type to do the same as a rookie.

"I know my role with so many great defensive linemen here is probably going to be on special teams first, so I'm ready to embrace that role," Jeremy said. "If I can work on the defense, that's great. I'm still going to work hard in practice on defense. But right now I see my role being primarily on special teams, and I'm going to work to my fullest to participate on special teams."

The brothers hung out briefly this past weekend when Jeremy was participating in the rookie orientation, and when asked they described themselves similarly, as quiet guys who like to "chill." Their voices are similar, so much so that Orrin says when he calls home, sometimes his mom thinks it's the little brother.

They have been on the same field once before since high school. On Oct. 30, 2004, Jeremy's Demon Deacons beat Orrin's Blue Devils 24-22 in Winston-Salem, with both Thompsons starting on the defensive line for their respective teams. Statistically, Orrin had a slightly better day, with three total tackles (two solo) to Jeremy's two (one solo).

But there'll be plenty more comparing of stats and contributions in the months to come. Though their lockers are about as far apart as possible in the Packers' locker room - the room's football shape puts the offensive and defensive linemen at the opposite ends - they should see each other plenty in practice, through their facemasks and ready for the snap.

{sportsad300}"Back at the house, we could compete for different things like food and TV time, but now we're actually competing in football, so I think it will be really fun," Jeremy said.

"It's good to have a familiar face, but my brother being on the other side of the ball, a position I go against, sometimes I think I'll be tempted to take it easy on him or him take it easy on me, but we know we can't do that, because this is football. It's very competitive, and we both have jobs we're trying to get. It will be weird at first, but we'll get used to how it's supposed to be."

That's unfortunately the harsh reality behind this feel-good story from the draft. As a 13-3 team with only 53 roster spots and not many holes to fill, the Packers may not have room for both Thompsons when training camp concludes.

With the draft selection of Breno Giacomini, there's added competition for the backup roles behind Tauscher and Clifton, and Orrin is no longer eligible for the practice squad. And even as a draft pick, Jeremy's immediate future is by no means secure, as the Packers have cut selections from the fourth (Cory Rodgers, 2006) and fifth (David Clowney, 2007) rounds the last two years.

But if they're both able to make the 53-man roster come late August, the draft day celebration from Charlotte would happily move north. With plenty of food to go around.

"I'm just pumped that he is where he is," Orrin said. "You see your little brother grow up in front of your eyes and get a chance, and for it to be with you, it's awesome."

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